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I scream; you scream! Forget your diet for a day and bring on the ice cream.

In a 1984 proclamation, President Reagan delighted future generations of Americans by designating July as National Ice Cream Month. He further declared the third Sunday of the month to be National Ice Cream Day and called for all people of the United States to observe the day with "appropriate ceremonies and activities."

We have our orders, friends. Consider it your patriotic duty to enjoy an ice cream cone today. In honor of this important occasion, here are five things you might not know about ice cream.

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1. It's big business. According to the International Ice Cream Association, about 9 percent of the milk produced by U.S. dairies is used to make ice cream. That equates to about 1.53 billion gallons of ice cream and similar frozen desserts, or about 20 quarts of ice cream per person. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I haven't been consuming my fair share.

2. Basic vanilla still rules. A 2012 survey by the IICA revealed that vanilla is America's most popular flavor, followed by chocolate and cookies 'n cream. In truth, though, ice cream flavors are virtually limitless. Specialty flavors can be found in supermarkets as well as individual ice cream shops, and many of them feature seasonal flavors. If you look hard enough, it's even possible to find grown-up flavors like bourbon butter pecan, pear with blue cheese, foie gras or sea urchin.

3. Ice cream evolution: No one knows who invented ice cream, although Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed a refreshing snack of snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. More than a millennium later, Marco Polo brought back from his travels a recipe for a frozen treat similar to modern sherbet. Historians believe that recipe eventually evolved into ice cream in the 16th century. "Cream ice" was served to European royalty, although it wasn't until much later, when insulated ice houses were invented, that ice cream became widely available to the general public.

4. Presidential tastes: Ronald Reagan wasn't our first president to crave ice cream. After President George Washington's death, inventory records of Mount Vernon recorded "two pewter ice cream pots." And President Thomas Jefferson even had a favorite recipe for vanilla ice cream, which you can view at loc.gov/ exhibits/treasures/tri034.html.

5. The cone wars: An Italian immigrant named Italo Marchiony is credited with inventing the first ice cream cone in 1896 in New York City and was granted a patent in 1903. Curiously, though, a similar creation was independently introduced in 1904 at the St. Louis World's Fair by a Syrian immigrant named Ernest A. Hamwi. The story goes that he was selling wafflelike pastries in a booth next to an ice cream vendor. Because of ice cream's popularity, the dishes ran out. Hamwi saved the day by rolling one of his waffles into a cone shape, making fairgoers happy and launching ice cream cones into popular American culture.

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