People were ready to line up for Rita’s Italian Ice in the 77 degree heat Wednesday.
They didn’t know the shop wouldn’t open until Sunday. It will give people a free cup of ice on the first day of spring on March 20.
“I sure wish we could have opened today,” owner Richard Shore said. “There’s almost no one around, but a lot of people tried to get in today. This weather is perfect for us, but most of our staff is home for spring break.”
Rita’s, which will open for its 10th season in State College, went through its customary prepping during the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.
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The shop always supplies icy treats for dancers as part of one of their meals. The staff also provides ice for families with pediatric cancer patients.
“It’s an opportunity to give back and to test out our equipment before we’re open for business,” Shore said. “Everything looks good, we’re ready for another fun season. We enjoy people coming here. It’s always amazing how excited people get for icy and custard.”
National Weather Service lead meteorologist Greg DeVoir said the recent warmth experienced in the region is due to a ridge of high pressure settling in the east and a continual flow of southerly winds.
The temperature record for March 9, 78 degrees, was likely not broken.
The unseasonably high temperatures — more than 30 degrees higher than the 120-year average — combined to create small brush fires in the region.
“There have been some wildfires, because people throw cigarette buds out of their car windows,” DeVoir said. “We still have dead leaf litter from the fall outside, and these are the first few warm days of the year. There aren’t any extreme red flags, but we do get a few small fires at this time.”