Ackley’s claim to fame: 20 feet of ice cream

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The Big Swirl as it appeared in Ackley.

Ackley, Ia. – For two decades, the Kurths had the same problem every time they went on vacation — a distinct lack of ice cream.

“When we were in Florida or Texas on family vacations, we’d get hungry for ice cream and there wouldn’t be any stands,” said the Kurth’s matriarch Janet , 49. “Just no ice cream for miles.”

And to Janet and her family, this lack of diary delicacies was a major issue, one that needed to be addressed swiftly.

So they built a 20-foot-8-inch ice cream cone and outfitted it with a soft serve machine.

Wait, let me say that again: They. Built. A. Giant. Ice. Cream. Cone.

The cone, which for now is known as the Big Swirl, debuted Wednesday as thousands of RAGBRAI riders passed through Ackley’s main drag, and had a steady line of customers all morning. Hademade out of fiberglass, the cone started as a Clip Art doodle before patriarch Jeff Kurth finalized plans for the life-sized version.

Jeff Caldwell and his daughter, Piper, 7, of West Platte, Neb., said they saw the cone as soon as they pulled into town and made a beeline for soft serve right then.

“Some people on our team are big bloody mary fans, so we said we are getting ice cream, meet us at the cone,” he said. “If you ask me, the kids are the smartest because ice cream is the best way to cool off.”

He turned to his daugther, “Is there anything better than ice cream?” he asked.

“Nope,” she said resoundingly before taking a big lick.

A recent story in the Ackley World Journal said the cone “may be Ackley’s biggest claim to fame.” Parked at the top of Main Street until it’s opening, it was certainly the city’s most visable claim to fame. A couple Ackley natives in line gabbed to Kurth about how excited they were to finally be able to taste this giant cone’s fruits.

Paramedics by trade, the ice cream business started as a weekend hobby for the family, but Kurth thinks this business could eventually become her and her husband’s full-time gig.

“My husband has big dreams,” she said. “He says he’s going to be a millionare one of these days and he keeps coming up with ideas. We do want to expand this business, eventually, but for now, one is enough.”

Then she turned back to her line, which was at least 10 people longer than it had been the last time she looked.

“Next!” she said with a smile.

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