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Ice Cream Trucks Return to Chicago Suburb After 53-Year Ban

This week, village trustees voted unanimously to end a 53-year prohibition that kept ice cream trucks out of Mundelein

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    The sisters heard the truck before they saw it. 

    Or, rather, they heard the tune -- the jingle-jangle, warbling melody known to generations of Americans as the Song of the Ice Cream Man. 

    And before the white truck with the colorful pictures of frozen treats on its side had turned the corner to meet them outside Mundelein's village hall, the girls erupted in a cacophony of sugary need that drowned out all other sounds. 

    "The ice cream man! The ice cream man!" they shouted. "He's here! He's here!" 

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    Yes indeed. The ice cream man is here. 

    This week, village trustees voted unanimously to end a 53-year prohibition that kept ice cream trucks out of town. Allowing the trucks encourages small businesses, they said, and these days Mundelein officials are pushing local entrepreneurism.

    Striking the ban, which had even been targeted by an online petition, also effectively ends an accidental conflict in the village's codes. One ordinance prohibited ice cream trucks, but another seemed to allow them. 

    So, for the first time since John F. Kennedy was president, an ice cream man legally has a route in Mundelein. "I am beyond excited," Trustee Holly Kim said. "I'm looking forward to hearing one coming down my block so I can buy a treat for the kids and let them experience the joys of having a neighborhood ice cream truck." 

    Origins a mystery 
    Available public documents don't indicate what prompted Mundelein officials to outlaw ice cream trucks in 1963. Village Administrator John Lobaito doesn't know why, either. Public safety -- accident and crime prevention -- often is cited when ice cream trucks are banned in towns. Lake Villa, Elgin and Hoffman Estates are among the suburbs with similar prohibitions. Carpentersville rescinded its ban in 2012. 

    Mundelein's embargo faced a legal challenge from the Good Humor Corp. that made it to the Illinois Supreme Court. The village won, and the ordinance stood. And yet, despite the ban, one ice cream vendor has been operating in Mundelein this summer. 

    Cicero resident Abdalla Alassuli, a driver for Pars Ice Cream Co. in Chicago, received a permit under the village's rules for solicitors and peddlers that were enacted in 1993. 

    No one involved in the permitting process realized ice cream trucks were forbidden by a different ordinance, Public Safety Director Eric Guenther said. 

    "Since it had not come up for discussion in some time, we didn't even know it was there," Guenther said. 

    Trustee Dawn Abernathy called the ban "archaic." If trendy food trucks are allowed in Mundelein, she said, ice cream trucks should be, too. 

    Plus there's the image Mundelein officials are trying to project for the town, one of a small-business incubator. Banning ice cream trucks flies counter to that mindset, Mayor Steve Lentz said. 

    To clean up the contradicting rules and policies, trustees on Monday amended the peddler ordinance to include the sale of "foodstuffs," such as meat and dairy products. 

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    Ice cream vendors must now apply for permits, submit to background checks and give their fingerprints to police. The permit includes a picture of the vendor and must be in the truck or carried personally at all times. 

    'This is a tradition' 
    Alassuli is grateful the board reconsidered the ban. 

    "The people here love the ice cream truck," he said. "This is a tradition." 

    It's a tradition Mundelein resident Jacqualine Calderon -- the mother of the girls who rejoiced at Alassuli's appearance Wednesday -- is thrilled to see in Mundelein. 

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    This month, Calderon launched an online petition in favor of allowing ice cream trucks in town. It garnered more than 125 signatures. 

    Calderon is especially glad her daughters get to enjoy the snow cones, ice cream sandwiches and other tasty frozen treats that fill the freezers inside Alassuli's truck. 

    "I now love watching them scream 'ice cream truck!' and go looking in the window for it," Calderon said. "It's a right of passage all children and adults should experience."