It's an annual rite of passage. Never mind that the thermometer reads a frigid -3 (F) or that the windchill is -28. It's March 1st. And around here that means one thing .... the opening of the Moorhead Dairy Queen. A part of the community since 1949, it is one of the oldest DQs in the country, and under only its second ownership. Perhaps that is part of the secret to its success. Or perhaps it's that when most DQs joined the Brazier franchise and became indoor establishments, the Moorhead DQ remained an old-style walk-up store. That means that, for one thing, prices are lower. Significantly lower, in some cases. And, if you talk to the locals, they'll tell you that the food is better too. Maybe that's because ice cream just tastes better when eaten outdoors, in the company of friends. No doubt, some friendships have been forged, standing in line. It's not uncommon, on a hot summer night, to stand in line well over a half hour. People expect that. No one complains. It's all part of the experience. Yes, going to the Moorhead Dairy Queen is a part of the culture here. In a community that has its fill of Starbucks, Burger Kings, Taco Bells and all the usual eateries, the Moorhead Dairy Queen is a throwback to a simpler time - when life was less hurried and visiting with neighbors was common.
But March 1st? Really?!?! In a part of the country where winters are MUCH longer than the calendar-prescribed three months, one would expect the DQ to open .... well, maybe June 1st. But owners Troy and Diane Deleon shut down for just four months out of the year (November-February) and they know that, come March 1st, people will be waiting in line .... having planned their day around this annual event. Several years ago I remember ordering a blizzardin a blizzard. It was crazy. We're hearty folk up here. And, after all, a tradition is a tradition.
So today, the girls and I made a run to the Dairy Queen. The lines didn't look TOO long when I got there. I chose what appeared to be the shortest one. Ha! It would have been nice if the lady in front of me had turned around and said, "Uh, you might want to choose another line. I'm going to order 11 blizzards." That's right. ELEVEN blizzards. She was taking them back to everyone at the office. Really, I could have killed her. But, putting on my "Minnnesota nice" face, I just smiled, gulped and waited. The air was frigid, with a stiff wind to boot. Even the girls were shivering. But they know the routine. Wait patiently and you get a 'dog dish'. That's a little cup of ice cream with a milkbone biscuit. They cost somehing like 30 cents. Maybe 40 cents now. I've never really asked. It's just part of the deal. Diane loves my dogs. And it's not uncommon to see a half dozen canines standing in line with their owners, waiting for their treat. I've witnessed a few snarls. I've taken Dee Dee to the car a time or two. But for the most part the pups are versed in "Minnesota nice" too.
There's snow on the ground here. A LOT of snow. It's supposed to get in the teens below zero tonight. We're preparing for spring flooding .... most likely 4-6 weeks away. It is decidedly winter here, yet. Except at the Moorhead Dairy Queen. In the Red River Valley, it's one of the first signs of spring.