But there is a patriotic catch.

Leopold's Ice Cream Exterior
Credit: Bruce Yuanyue Bi/Getty Images

When summer hits in the South the air turns thick as molasses and it is swelteringly hot. Summers are long and without much of a break in the heat but thankfully, our region produces some of the best consolation prizes in the country. We're talking about tall glasses of iced sweet tea, porches with ceiling fans, and of course, a delicious scoop of rich, thick, ice cream. This month, one of our favorite places, Leopold's Ice Cream, has one special offer for kids—free ice cream! But there is a patriotic catch.

For nine years, the beloved Savannah, Georgia institution has offered free ice cream to kids who recited the Pledge of Allegiance when visiting the shop during the month of July.

Owner Stratton Leopold recently explained to Southern Living how one patron came up with this great idea. "The I Pledge Project started when a customer of ours, an educator named Jan Mackey, mentioned to me that wouldn't it be a great idea if a child could recite the Pledge of Allegiance and we did something like give him some ice cream? I said sure. It's a great idea, let's do it! So, we did it."

In that first year, about 400 children filed through those doors to perform their civic duty in exchange for a sweet treat, and people beyond the community noticed. Leopold's was honored with an award for their efforts by the National Ice Cream Retail Association and this fueled Mr. Leopold's desire to do more. He then expanded the project beyond his store and his city. Mr. Leopold and his team created a website where they could provide all of the materials without Leopold's branding on it for other ice cream shops to follow their lead. "We want nothing from it. We'd like to know if they're doing it so we can say thank you to them and that's pretty much it. And this past year we were in about 41 states. We hope to get all 50 by this year," he said.

If you don't live in Savannah but want your local ice cream shop to participate, be sure to let them know about the I Pledge Project.

On July 1, Leopold's launched their 9th year of the I Pledge Project, once again opening their doors for pint-sized patriotic patrons and their parents.

Mr. Leopold does not require the pledge be recited in English and noted that some children have parents from different countries, and they may speak multiple languages. It all counts. But he recalled one memorable moment that stands out as a highlight.

"One year, a child goes up there and starts reciting and I'm listening to a language that I wasn't understanding. I would pick up an occasional word. So, when he finished, I said, what was that? It was Latin. They had learned it in school. So, I gave him two ice cream cones," he said with a laugh and a smile.

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July just happens to be National Ice Cream Month but it's safe to say, it's also one of Stratton Leopold's favorite times of year as well.

"We're old fashioned. It's a throwback to a simpler time in a way that makes one feel good that these kids think enough of knowing the Pledge of Allegiance that they'll do it."