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Rita's springs free Italian ice treats on hundreds of guests

March 21, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

Twelve-year-old April Maloff of Hagerstown took one small bite of her friend's cherry Italian ice.

She swished the bright red slush in her mouth once and spit it out on the pavement.

"I don't like cherry," April said.

She was one of hundreds who took advantage of the Rita's Italian ice giveaway Monday in Hagerstown - the first day of spring.

It was the 13th annual giveaway for the national Italian ice chain. Everyone visiting the stores, including locations in Pennsylvania, Frederick, Md., and Hagerstown received a free, 10-ounce Italian ice.

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April and other Girls Inc. members went to the giveaway with two staff members. She and her sister, Rebekah Maloff, 14, each opted for the root beer Italian ice.

None of the customers at Rita's until late Monday, when temperatures dipped into the 30s, said the cold weather would keep them away from the free treats.

Shawna Johnson, 12, of Hagerstown, was shaking and used the long sleeves of her coat to protect her hands from the cold. Yet, she stood outside Rita's in Hagerstown with the other Girls Inc. members eating a tropical punch Italian ice.

"It's not too cold for Rita's," said Kelly Reese, of Waynesboro, Pa.

Bob Ames of Hagerstown was at Rita's for a mango-flavored ice for his wife.

"She loves anything cold and wet," he said.

Dennis Myers, who owns Rita's in Hagerstown with his wife, Cynthia, said mango might have been the day's most popular flavor. He wasn't sure how much they had handed out, but he said it was a lot.

"My wife's been making ice since 9 a.m.," he said.

The business was open from noon until 9 p.m.

"This is a thank you to all of our customers," he said.

Zahir Scott, 5, of Hagerstown, said Rita's should always give away free treats. Zahir walked to Rita's with his sisters, Ayanna Fields, 13, and Najja Scott, 8.

He held onto his cup of cherry Italian ice and watched as some chunks slid over the side of the cup. What didn't drip onto his sleeve and the pavement, he put in his mouth.

"Awww," he said. "I got a brain freeze."

Chris Cressler, who owns Rita's in Shippensburg, Pa., said Monday was the busiest first day of Spring for the store in the seven years she has owned it.

Toni Rovito, who co-owns Rita's in Frederick and Chambersburg with her husband, Frank, estimated she would serve at least 1,400 Italian ices Monday - the number she served during the last giveaway.

She said most of the stores would give away between 1,500 and 2,000.

Janelle Fisher, a team leader at the Chambersburg store, said employees there passed out between 400 and 450 Italian ices every two hours.

"There's been a line all day," she said.

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