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Moorhead's long-running Dairy Queen is the birthplace of the Dilly Bar

Finding Minnesota: The birthplace of the Dilly Bar
Finding Minnesota: The birthplace of the Dilly Bar 02:53

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- Moorhead is a city known for a Viking ship, a Norwegian church, and a famous, frozen treat.

"One of my earliest memories of childhood is going to Dairy Queen about 60 years ago, and eating a Dilly Bar," said Margaret Grigorenko, visiting from Ohio.

There's no better place to have one than at the corner of 8th and Main. Seventy-four years ago, the Dairy Queen at that location opened its doors. Troy Deleon is only the second owner in the restaurant's history. Because it's been around for so long, it's no ordinary DQ.

"No grilled foods, no fried foods," Deleon said. "We make the barbecue, and we make our own chili. We don't buy anything out of a can. It's all made in-house."

That includes the famed Dilly Bars. In 1955, original owner Bob Litherland and a couple of guys from Minneapolis started experimenting with frozen treats. At one point, they froze a circle of ice cream onto a tongue depressor.

"They made it, they froze it down, and they looked at it and said, 'Isn't that a dilly?'" Deleon said.

Once word got out, it was hard to keep up with demand. Carol and Mitch Zakula heard about the history and made a stop while visiting from Arizona.

"The Dilly Bar is very good. Highly recommended," said Carol.

They actually use cardboard to get that perfect circle and swirl. Then they head to a negative-20-degree freezer dedicated solely to Dilly Bars. That's where they sit for six hours.

Once removed, the bars are dipped in chocolate, butterscotch, or cherry. The cool thing is that people wait all winter to get their hands on one. The restaurant opens on March 1, and this year customers lined up even as the snow was falling -- in the middle of a blizzard, no pun intended.

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"We had 13 inches of snow this year [laughs]!" Deleon said.

And people still showed up. The Moorhead Dairy Queen is used to large crowds, having hosted the Stanley Cup before. And every summer a cow visits so people can thank dairy farmers. In this city, the DQ is GQ, all thanks to ice cream and tongue depressors.

"They perfected it and just stuck with it, and now it went from this store all the way across the country, to every store in the country," Deleon said.

They sell more than 100,000 Dilly Bars during the eight months they are open. At the end of July, they host an event where they sell Dilly Bars and raise thousands of dollars for Sanford Hospital in Moorhead.

March 1 is officially known as "Dairy Queen Day" in Moorhead. 

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