By JORDEN HALES | Uptown News
Daniel Szpak loves his community and ice cream, perhaps in that order.
A full-time registered nurse at San Diego State University hospital, Szpak has spent more than 15 years living in North Park and most of his life enjoying ice cream.
On Sunday, June 23, he plans to bring the two passions together.
Szpak co-founded Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream in 2014 and remained a managing partner until 2017.
Now eyeing retirement but too busy to start another shop, he is working to create Southern California’s premier ice cream festival.
The Scoop San Diego festival will feature more than 20 local ice cream and gelato shops on 30th Street in North Park.
It’s the first event of its kind in San Diego County and Szpak plans to organize it annually.
“I’m super social,” Szpak said with a laugh. “[My husband] Chris and I joke about me sustaining myself by meeting up with friends and gathering groups of people together.
“I don’t want this to be just, ‘here’s another beer or taco festival and then forget about it until next year.’ I want the relationships and the fundraising projects to stay relevant. North Park is my community. I’ve gotten a lot of support from it and made a lot of connections.”
Those relationships were the catalyst for the project, along with Szpak’s affinity for cold desserts. He noticed that young people tend to enjoy ice cream in vibrant, social settings.
“It started in my childhood,” he recalls. “I really like the interaction. Everyone loves ice cream.”
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the festival will be donated to East Village’s Monarch School, which educates homeless K-12 youth
The students of Monarch have been learning to make their own ice cream and will serve their own flavor at the festival.
More than 10 businesses other than ice cream and gelato shops are also participating.
“I decided to invite them because some of them are either associated with the ice-cream shops, [selling] their products at the shops,” he explained. “Some are nonprofit organizations that I’m friends with the CEOs of, local businesses near my house here in North Park.”
Jason Gould of 30th Street’s Visual art gallery began painting Scoop San Diego’s selfie wall during the North Park Festival of Arts last month.
Other work from the gallery will be showcased at the festival.
These sorts of collaborative efforts are the exact type of relationships Szpak hopes will come from the festival, just as its dessert often brings friends and family together for social gatherings.
“This is our first year in San Diego, so we want to participate and become a true part of the community, said David Aguilera, a managing partner of An’s Dry Cleaning gelato shop on Adams Avenue. “We want to create a culture. We all have to support each other.”
An’s Dry Cleaning — which takes its name from the previous owner of its building — will debut a new flavor at Scoop San Diego and be providing trivia about the differences between gelato and ice cream, as well as the history of the two cold desserts.
More than 2,500 locals are expected to visit the festival. Tickets can be purchased at ScoopSanDiego.org.
A single ticket will enable patrons to sample 10 different scoops of ice cream for $20. A sharable pass can be purchased for $35 and allows access to a sample from all vendors at the festival.
— Jorden P. Hales is a multimedia journalist based in Southern California. Follow him on twitter: @JayPGatsby.