Despite the dreary weather, Rita’s Water Ice on Gay Street, Wednesday, March 21 welcomed the first day of spring, giving out free cups of Italian ice. The long lines formed in the late morning and reached a peak by the mid-afternoon as University students joined local high school students. With temperatures a chilly 50 degrees and a gray sky threatening rain, it felt much like a fall day then the official kick off of spring. Students turned out in near record numbers in face of such a day, unable to deny their craving for Rita’s that has been dormant all winter.
Based on a rough estimate provided by assistant manager Theresa Kopena, Rita’s in West Chester handed out 72 buckets worth of free Italian Ice or roughly 2880 cups served. The most popular flavors on this first day of spring were the classic strawberry, cherry and passion fruit. Kopena said the most requested flavor, mango, was not available for the mass distribution.
In what has quickly become a springtime tradition, the Sharpless Shopping Center parking lot was packed out with a line of cars spilling out onto Gay Street at the height of the rush in the afternoon. The newborn tradition offered at 400 plus Rita’s locations has helped it become the nation’s largest Italian ice company. While Rita’s in West Chester actually opened up for the year the week earlier as temperatures moderated, this event clearly marks the beginning of their busy season.
The Public Relations motivation for such an event, according to Kopena, “is to let people know that they’re officially back for another season and to attract new customers.” Rita’s in West Chester was estimated to have served 3,500 people with their first day of spring promotion.