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Moorhead Dairy Queen fans line up in traditional fashion

Dressed warmly or snuggled up, fans of the Moorhead Dairy Queen gather for cold treats Sunday as the business opened for its 60th year. (Dave Wallis/The Forum)

MOORHEAD - March 1 is like an unofficial holiday for Moorhead.

It's the day, many will tell you, the city's only Dairy Queen opens.

"It's crazy, but it's OK with us," said Concordia College senior Betsy Devries as she ate soft-serve outside with fellow students.

Subzero temperatures did nothing to dissuade crowds of people who bundled in boots, parkas and sweatpants outside the Moorhead store Sunday to get their DQ.

The store - which doesn't have any indoor seating - closes Oct. 31 every year, reopening again March 1 - no matter how cold it is outside.

The store's workers wore long-sleeve shirts Sunday, trying to stay warm with two floor heaters among the 22 freezers.

Outside, customers' only source of warmth in the single-digit temperatures was drizzled hot fudge on top of sundaes.

So, why March and not, say, May? For these dedicated Minnesotans, it's simple: tradition.

"Everybody's got that March 1st (date) in their head," said Diane DeLeon, 46, who owns the DQ with her husband. "We just decided to continue on with the tradition."

It's a tradition that's been going on every year for 60 years. And for that, there's 81-year-old Phyllis Litherland and her husband to blame.

The couple owned the business for 46 years, starting the chilly tradition of reopening their DQ windows on March 1.

"Go figure," Litherland said as she watched people line up outside the Dairy Queen on Sunday. "It's tradition."

In fact, she hasn't missed a single opening during those 60 years.

Holding her Butterfinger Blizzard while her husband Bob waited in the car (despite owning the store for 46 years, he doesn't eat Dairy Queen), she explained why they picked the opening date six decades ago.

"Because people are tired of winter," Litherland said wrapped in a head scarf and jacket.

"It kind of reminds you spring is coming," agreed customer June Dordal of Moorhead as she waited in the line with two dozen others.

But for all those who think these Minnesotans are a little crazy for waiting in freezing temps for their treats, Dordal offered a little perspective in true Minnesota fashion: "This is pretty warm actually - no wind, you know."