A rambunctious brown-haired boy holds hands with his grandmother as they approach the Snoasis snowball stand. He waits excitedly in line, swinging his arms back and forth. He jumps up and down on the wooden planks, stomping when he finds a loose one. After waiting for what seems like hours to a 4-year-old, it was finally his turn in line.
“I’d like a small rainbow please!” he shouts at the teenage girl behind the screen, holding onto the counter and trying to swing on it.
“Yes, Harrison wants a small rainbow and I’ll have the usual, chocolate with marshmallow cream in the middle,” said the grandmother.
Marsha and Harrison have held a tradition of eating snowballs together every week for many, many years. Marsha, who has grown up eating snowballs her entire life, insisted on buying him his first snowball when he was just a baby.
You might not know what a snowball is, but in Baltimore it’s not just a summer tradition, it’s practically municipal religion.
So what is it? A snowball is technically shaved ice, thinner than snow cone ice and traditionally eaten in a cup with a spoon instead of in a cone. The texture of a snowball is also thinner than Italian ice and usually comes in a lot more flavors.
Snoasis snowball stand is a small one-room building, located in Timonium-Lutherville right off of Padonia Road. The stand and umbrellas are covered in palm leaves and raffia, giving it that relaxed beachy feel. Groups of friends walk the sand-covered boards to order their flavors before sitting at the picnic tables to enjoy their snowballs. Families with young children finish their tasty treats quickly in order to be able to play in the sand that covers the ground.
Snoasis is an escape from everyday life where you can revisit your childhood or bond with your family in a moment of delicious gratification. This particular stand has over 25 classic flavors and over 55 premium flavors at any given time. However, they always stock the two original flavors: chocolate and cherry as well as their two best sellers: egg custard and skylite (blueberry). At Snoasis, around 80 percent of the customers order the marshmallow topping on their favorite flavor but everyone has their own combinations.
“My favorite flavor is chocolate,” says the tall girl behind the counter, 17-year-old Caroline Jaeger.
“I like a lot of them but I think mine is definitely Sweet tart,” her coworker Melissa Bolfes chimed in.
The girls behind the counter are all working to earn some extra cash over their summer break from high school. They said they get a steady flow of people when the season starts in mid-April, but not too many new customers.
“I definitely grew up eating snowballs in Baltimore every summer,” said Katie Baum, Skylite Snowball food truck owner. “There was something special about going to your local snowball stand and ordering the perfect icy treat on a sweltering humid summer day or a steamy summer night.”
Baum grew up in Baltimore, but after living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last 12 years and always craving that icy treat, she decided to bring the Baltimore snowball to the West. After attending a food truck festival in Oakland in 2009, Baum got the idea to do a snowball truck.
“It’s been fun introducing the snowball to the Bay Area,” said Baum, “It was surprising in the beginning that I had to actually educate people on what a snowball is.”
The Skylite Snowball truck has a variety of over 50 flavors and they are always inventing new recipes. The truck usually stocks four to ten recipes a day and they are always changing depending on the season or month, but they usually stock the basics. The marshmallow cream topping is literally the cherry on top of the iconic snowball.
“We make our own marshmallow cream and sometimes people have even requested a cup of just the marshmallow, which I find pretty funny,” said Baum. “I actually can’t eat a chocolate snowball without the marshmallow, it just doesn’t feel right.”