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The cold war is finally over. The dark days of Aurora’s ice cream truck prohibition have officially come to an end, and children city-wide can once again answer the sweet, sweet siren call of roving trucks slinging Drum Sticks, Creamsicles, and Choco Tacos.
As absurd as it sounds today, many cities—including Denver—banned ice cream trucks in the previous century, though most have reinstated them since. Aurora was the final frozen dairy dessert holdout, having originally banned them in 1957. For the most part it was a nuisance thing—the little jingle the trucks play to let kids know they’re around was deemed too loud and annoying for residents—plus, there were safety concerns for the kids running after them.
Aurora council-member-at-large Dustin Zvonek suggested the new ordinance to lift the ban. (His go-to ice cream truck order: the red, white, and blue Bomb Pop.) He’d created an ad hoc committee focused on reducing red tape and updating antiquated laws, and that’s when he came across the ice cream truck restriction. Aurora City Council unanimously passed the ordinance in late June, and today, ice cream trucks can once again cruise the streets, doling out frozen treats to Aurora kids (and to not-so kids, because when strawberry shortcake bars are involved, age is just a number.)
“I’ve been in the business for 25 years, and it’s mind boggling; it’s still a thrill. People still like to hear that jingle. You know it’s summertime when you hear that ice cream truck,” says Paul Capley, longtime advertising manager for Ice Cream Wagon (who prefers to snag a King Cone).
Capley and Ice Cream Wagon received Aurora’s first ice cream truck license, after Capley says he’d given up on the city. Having tried and failed to change the laws years ago, he didn’t think he’d ever see the day that Ice Cream Wagon could deploy their 50-truck fleet to the area. Now, they have to learn the streets and neighborhoods.
“We don’t even know Aurora,” Capley says. (The most popular item on the trucks, by the way, is the SpongeBob ice cream. We know you were wondering.) “We have so many routes we’ve been doing for so many years, we have to try to figure out Aurora. With something set in stone for so long, I thought we’d never go there.”
But since the ordinance passed, Zvonek says the city has issued several new licenses, meaning that today freedom—and that telltale ice cream truck jingle—rings yet again.
Where to go ice cream truck hunting
You may have noticed that it’s been harder to spy ice cream trucks in recent years. Ice Cream Wagon’s Paul Capley says that since COVID, it’s been harder to find workers, meaning they’ve only been able to send out about half of their 50-truck fleet. We asked Capley for tips on how to maximize our chances of catching the elusive ice cream truck.
Days: On weekdays, Capley says they only have 10-15 trucks out, and that covers the entire metro area, from Fort Collins to Castle Rock. All the trucks are out on weekends, though, which means Saturdays and Sundays are statistically your best bets to hit your mark.
Time: The prime time for selling ice cream on a weekday is from 5:30 p.m. until sundown. Drivers know that parents are off work and more likely to acquiesce to whiny kids. Weekends are a free for all, so anytime goes.
Neighborhood: Residential communities are the trucks’ go-to’s, with bonus points for parks, swimming pools, and larger gatherings like soccer tournaments. Capley also says that trucks like to keep moving to maximize the number of people they can feed. That makes it harder for you, dear ice cream truck hunter, to catch one, but it’s all about the thrill of the chase.
Modern takes on the classic ice cream trucks are easier to find: They tend to stick to one advertised spot. (Have you seen gas prices these days?) Here are a few updates to look for around town when a Drum Stick just won’t cut it.
New Zealand-style ice cream
Made with two-thirds sweet cream and one-third fresh fruit like strawberries and peaches, Happy Cones trucks mainly do private events, but you’ll often find them at City Park Jazz.
HipPOPS takes fresh gelato, puts it on a stick, dips it in Belgian chocolate, and then allows you to choose what it gets dipped into. Crushed pistachios? Rainbow sprinkles? Your gelato fate is in your hands.
Read More: Denver’s Best Ice Cream Shops