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A truly Murray tradition: Dairy Queen


What makes the Murray Dairy Queen special?

If you look on your calendar at March 1, you won't find a holiday listed for that day. However, if you live in Murray, Kentucky, you know it's a date celebrated as one of the first signs of spring. Just drive down Main Street that day, and no matter the weather, you will find a line out to the street at the seasonal opening of the local Dairy Queen.

You probably already know that Murray's Dairy Queen is different than most. It's a walk up establishment, the food menu is limited and it's only open March-October. But, there are other factors that make this spot special.

Photo: Kayla Weber (Instagram @kaylawebernord) The Murray Dairy Queen opened in 1949, and has basically operated the same since then. Hal Kemp, who bought the store along with his wife Leslie in 1993, knows that opening day is a big event.

"Some of the schools do countdowns to opening day. The lines are long but it is a time to see folks you haven't seen all winter," he said. He believes tradition is one of the reasons citizens love the restaurant so much. "Why is the Murray DQ special? It is tradition. It is the same now as it was in 1949. When the Murray DQ opens it is a sign that spring is on its way," he said.

Apparently, people from all over the world agree. Harriett Rorik Eijpen, who currently lives in Huizen, Netherlands, was an exchange student in Murray during the 1998-1999 school year.

"On my third day in Murray my Uncle Mancil took my sister and me to DQ. My sister reminded him he had to watch his calories, and he asked the lady to scrape the calories off. She took a knife and scraped the top of his ice cream, without blinking. My first time at DQ was one for the books."

Harriett returns to Murray to visit at least once a year. "Every year I have to choose between DQ season or basketball season for my visit! This year will be DQ season. The ice cream at the Murray DQ is legendary good," she said.

She may be on to something with that "legendary good" statement. The reason people seem to go crazy over Murray Dairy Queen ice cream is because it is a different recipe than others in the franchise.

"We still use the old DQ mix. It is a lot richer. It has more butter fat, which gives it the taste," Kemp said.

Roger Reichmuth, a Murray local, has been going to the restaurant since he came to Murray State in 1957. He said he notices a difference in the flavor of the ice cream when he visits other DQs.

"I go to other Dairy Queens and notice the taste is not as creamy and smooth as in Murray," he said.

He added another thing that makes the establishment so special is it's seasonal.

"It is a time-honored Murray tradition."

Opening Day

Rain, sleet, snow or cold weather has never stopped a line from forming on March 1 (or on the closing day, October 31). What most ice cream seekers don't know, however, is all the work that goes into preparing for the opening day.

Owner Hal Kemp said that each year requires special coordination.

"We have to put all the equipment back together and make sure everything is functioning correctly. We have to order an entire inventory, hire all the employees and train the new employees. It's like starting a new business every year," he said.

It is clear there is much behind-the-scenes effort that goes into the operation of this unique Murray tradition.

So, we'll see you in line March 1.


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