Savor the flavors of SUMMER

Snowballs are a rite of summer in south Louisiana. From Easter to Labor Day, small portable buildings filled with shelves of brightly colored bottles of sugary liquid pop up in parking lots in every town and city.

“When it gets really hot, I start craving them,” said Krista LaFrance while deliberating over dozens of flavors at the SnoMan snowball stand on Burbank Drive.

An opinionated bunch, snowball lovers have definite ideas about what makes a great one — some say it’s the syrup, others insist it’s the ice.

“I like ice that is so soft it melts, like snow,” said Allison Claire Poche on a 95-degree day at Snoballs on Call at the corner of Essen Lane and Perkins Road.

“If it’s like dry chunks of ice, it’s terrible,” said her friend, Carter James. “You want it all to be the same consistency. You don’t want to get to the bottom and have a big chunk of ice.”

When it comes to flavor, there are dozens of varieties tasting of nearly any soft drink, candy bar or ice cream you can find at the local Circle K. There’s the tartness of Polar Punch, the super sweetness of Tropical Blend, the creaminess of Tutti Frutti and the cake-in-the-cup goodness of Yellow Cake Batter.

Vendors have even solved the most fearful of snowball mishaps — dropping a syrup-laden cone on the car seat during the ride home. Now there are clear options of flavors that used to turn your tongue (and your car seats) red-light red or swamp green.

Poche insisted the clear strawberry she dug into tasted just like James’ choice, the traditional bright red interpretation of the flavor.

“It doesn’t make your mouth all red or blue,” she said. “I’m a spiller, so I would get this all over me.”

The dread of spills has lead to another snowball innovation loved by mothers everywhere — the topless snowball. Lopping off that peak of ice that protrudes above the cup greatly cuts the odds of upholstery stains.

“I’m a mom. I am all about the no-top, sugar-free snowball,” said Tippy Thomassie, who brought her son Blaise, 5, to SnoMan Snoballs on Burbank Drive. He got his rainbow favorite — “it has a lot of colors on it” — and slurped it through a straw.

The syrup, according to several aficionados, should cover all the ice with no dry spots.

“Too much juice is not good, either,” said Krista LaFrance, standing in line at SnoMan. “Too much juice and it’s like a drink. It takes away from the ice.”

Some snowball stands have even figured out a way to take the humble concoction to new heights — the stuffed snowball has a scoop of ice cream sandwiched inside the ice.

“Paradise,” said Stacy Parker, who brought her two sons to get regular snowballs at SnoMan. “It’s like you get snowball, then ice cream and snowball again. It’s delicious.”

After growing up in Baton Rouge, Danny McDonald and his family now live in Louisville, Ky. They eat snow cones up there, but get real snow in the winter.

“In Louisiana, they call it a snowball,” he said, spooning up his root beer-flavored treat. “It’s the only snowball you’ll see here.”