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Rita's giving away free ices for first day of spring

Rita's Italian Ice, which has five locations on

Rita's Italian Ice, which has five locations on Long Island, celebrates the first day of Spring every year by giving away free ices. (Credit: Angela Gaul, 2013)

The spring season is getting off to an icy start.

Although the weather on Long Island was sunny with temperatures in the 40s Wednesday, there is plenty of ice in the forecast, as the nation’s largest chain of Italian ice shops is celebrating the first day of spring by giving their products away.

This is the 21st year that Rita’s Italian Ice, which has more than 625 locations across the country, including two in Nassau and three in Suffolk counties, is hosting the spring giveaway event. From noon until closing time, all Rita’s customers can receive a free complimentary ice in any flavor they choose in a limited edition “First Day of Spring” cup.

When Jack Jessup, 55, opened up his Huntington Station store at noon Wednesday he already had a line of about 20 people waiting for their free ices.

During the giveaway day last spring, Jessup served more than 2,500 customers.

“Last year, it was 72 degrees outside so I did a lot more than usual,” he said.

Jessup is expecting at least 2,000 customers to claim their free ice today even though it’s chilly outside.

“It’s chaos . . . I have 33 buckets of ice already made,” he added.

Jessup’s store, located at 107 Walt Whitman Rd., will be open until 9 p.m. The Rita’s at 105 E. Main St. in East Islip and at 2791 Long Beach Road in Oceanside also close at 9 p.m. The Deer Park store, located at 2158 Deer Park Ave., and the Franklin Square shop, located at 887 Hempstead Tpke., will both stay open until 10 p.m.

Customers also have a chance to win free Rita’s ice for a year and other prizes by entering the “First Taste of Spring” photo contest on Instagram and Twitter. Guests must follow Rita’s on Twitter (@RitasItalianIce) or Instagram (@ritasice) and hashtag their entries with #ritasfirstdayofspring. Photos submitted will be judged based on creativity, originality and how well a fan showcases their first taste of spring at Rita’s. The contest ends at midnight on March 22, and. winners will be notified on March 27 and announced on March 29.

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