Brain freezes, sticky fingers and sugar rushes—oh, the sacrifices an ice cream addict makes for her dessert of choice. Though the treat has origins overseas, it is such a fixture of summertime in America that in 1984, President Ronald Reagan (also a connoisseur of jelly beans) declared July National Ice Cream Month. In his proclamation, Reagan called ice cream “a nutritious and wholesome food” and summoned Americans “to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
And so it was decreed: Eating ice cream—at least for one month out of 12—is not only an American pastime, but an American duty.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.