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“You’re officially open,” Mayor Richard Hofeld declared after snipping the blue ribbon on Friday to mark the reopening of Homewood’s Dairy Queen after it had been closed for six weeks.
And with that, staff member Natalie Hamilton brought out a giant sundae covered in chocolate syrup and strawberries and owner Kevin Welsh started passing out spoons encouraging people to taste the delicious ice cream treat.
“It’s perfect,” Welsh declared.  “Eat it up!”
But most people preferred to wait in line to place an order, even though the line was long and the sun was warm. 
James Hart School sixth graders Fin Schmidt, Max Quirke, Nick Piotrowski, Kainoa Tannehill, Ryan Castady, Leon Danta and Nick Calomino huddled around one of the two service windows. They all had their orders in mind, and the list went through the Dairy Queen menu: double fudge cookie dough blizzard, butterscotch dipped cone, large caramel sundae, medium Butter Finger blizzard, S’mores blizzard.
The Dairy Queen was out of commission for about six weeks following a traffic accident July 17 that took the life of the driver, whose vehicle plowed into the southeast corner of the business at Ridge Road and Gottschalk Avenue. The damage was so extensive that it required a major rebuild both inside and out.
With the noon hour ceremony approaching, Welsh was still working on the front windows. In the end, no one noticed. The Dairy Queen looked the same, and it was open for business.
“It’s great to see the community support,” he said. “Everybody’s out here. This is absolutely the best part.” 
Welsh admitted to have recurring nightmares “that the crowd showed up and the machines failed.” Nearly everything inside the store was totaled, and Welsh had to buy new ice cream making machines that he and the staff had to learn to operate.
“We put (the machines) through their paces the past week – real hard.  I think we’re going to be just fine and settle back down to normal,” he said.
The Welsh family has owned Dairy Queen for 52 years. The business was purchased by Kevin’s dad, Art, who patron Pat DelBianco of Homewood remembered as she stood in line.
“I’m here because they deserve to have people in line. I’m here to welcome them and I’m happy they’re open again,” she said, noting Dairy Queen lost a lot of business just at the height of the summer season.
Young or old, everyone in line agreed Dairy Queen is a special place.
“My granddaughter got off the (school) bus and asked to come to Dairy Queen. How exciting to see this.  I’m happy for Dairy Queen,” said Noreen Danadio of Homewood.
“It’s a community staple,” said Jacqueline Johnson of Homewood.
“It’s the center of summer time (in Homewood),” another patron said.

Photos by Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle.

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