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Rita's Annual Water Ice Giveaway is Rite of Spring

by on March 20, 2014 2:30 PM

It sure doesn't look much like spring, with slate gray skies overhead, snow squalls, temperatures in the 30's and people buried under layers of winter parkas, scarves and gloves.

But that hasn't stopped the Rita's on East Beaver Avenue from carrying on an annual tradition that warms the hearts of thousands.

As they do each year, all Rita's franchises opened their doors Thursday to celebrate the first day of spring by handing out free water ice to anyone brave enough to chow down on the frozen treats.

They're doing a "brisk" business at the State College shop, to say the least. Fifteen minutes after opening the doors, Rita's had already given away 60 cups of Italian water ice.

Saresa Stager-Hanes has lived in State College for eight years and looks forward to Rita's annual give-away every spring. "I'm surprised the line wasn't longer to be honest," she says, adding that she's always in the mood for water ice no matter how cold it is outside.

With 20 different flavors to chose from it sometimes takes people awhile to make up their mind. The options include Swedish Fish, Kiwi, Mango, Pina Colada and even Birthday Cake.

One young boy asked for "green" and got a cup filled with Key Lime water ice.

Rita's owner, Richard Shore says the freebie-filled opening day is a lot of fun. "We enjoy it. Everybody knows about Rita's and the first day of spring. It's free ice day and they get the word out. I didn't even advertise for it. They just know."

He admits that business is off a bit this year because of the chilly weather. Shore says one year they gave away 500 water ices every hour for nine hours, for a total of 4,460 free water ices.

Joe Ignatius, a Maryland native, says it's just something you do. "I always look forward to the Rita's free ice every year," he says. "I always get the Mint Chocolate Chip, that's always my favorite flavor. It's the first sign of spring."

Rita's will be open and giving away free water ice until 10 p.m. on Thursday.

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Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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