20 Things You Didn't Know About Dairy Queen

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iStock

Whether you're craving a plain vanilla cone or an elaborate banana split, your local Dairy Queen has been the go-to spot for summertime soft-serve since 1940.

1. THE FIRST DQ WAS LOCATED IN JOLIET, ILLINOIS.

black and white photo of a young well-dressed girl eating an ice cream cone
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To promote the new soft-serve store, founder Sherb Noble suggested an "all you can eat for 10 cents" sale. The promotion was so popular, Noble worried that the stampede of customers would break the glass windows of the store front.

2. A "BRAZIER" DAIRY QUEEN IS ONE THAT SERVES HOT FOOD IN ADDITION TO ICE CREAM.

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A "brazier," by the way, is another word for a charcoal grill.

3. THERE'S A RHYME AND REASON TO THE COMPANY'S NAME.

image of the parking lot of a Dairy Queen restaurant
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The original store was deemed Dairy Queen because Jack "Grandpa" McCullough, the "driving force" behind DQ's soft serve, said his creation was a queen among dairy products.

4. DAIRY QUEEN'S SOFT SERVE RECIPE IS A HIGHLY GUARDED TRADE SECRET.

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And just like KFC and Coke, they'll never reveal the ingredients. "[The formula] is kept in a safe deposit box and there are only a few keys to it," DQ's chief branding officer, Michael Keller, has said.

5. NO DOUBT FORMED AT A DAIRY QUEEN IN 1986.

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Gwen Stefani and her brother Eric worked with other founding member John Spence at an Anaheim store, where they discussed forming a band. Other celebrity DQ employees include former Attorney General John Ashcroft, actress Bonnie Hunt, and singer Martina McBride.

6. THOUGH DAIRY QUEEN HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE 1940, IT DIDN'T INTRODUCE ITS TRADEMARK BLIZZARDS UNTIL 1985.

the one image of a Dairy Queen blizzard available on stock photo websites
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They sold more than 175 million Blizzards in the very first year.

7. MANY FRANCHISES TURN BLIZZARDS UPSIDE DOWN IN FRONT OF CUSTOMERS BEFORE SERVING.

image of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates holding DQ blizzards upside down
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It's proof of how thick and delicious their soft-serve is—but it's also a total marketing gimmick. Some stores offer the treat for free if the employee fails to perform the trick.

You can credit a teenage boy in Missouri for inspiring the practice. In the 1950s, Ted Drewes Jr. ran a frozen custard stand located in St. Louis, where he sold concretes—frozen custard mixed with bits of fruit. In 1959, 14-year-old Steve Gamber made a habit of visiting Drewes's stand nearly every day and asking for a chocolate malt. Every time Drewes handed it to him, Gamber would ask for him to make it thicker.

Eventually, Gamber said, Drewes got fed up and started turning it upside down "just to shut me up." But the tradition lasted, and Drewes began turning every customer's concrete upside down before serving it. In the 1970s, Dairy Queen franchisee Sam Temperato, who owned several DQ restaurants in St. Louis, took notice of both Drewes's concretes and cheeky presentation and went to Dairy Queen executives with the proposal for the first Blizzard. (Ted Drewes, meanwhile, is still a St. Louis institution.)

8. THE GREEN TEA BLIZZARD IS THE #1 SELLER IN CHINA.

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In the U.S., the most popular Blizzard is Oreo.

9. WARREN BUFFETT LOVES DAIRY QUEEN.

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Of course, he owns it—at least, Berkshire Hathaway does—but he really supports the product. Once, while dining at the Four Seasons in New York City, he asked staff to pick him up some DQ ice cream for dessert. Unfortunately, the city didn't have a DQ location at the time, so he had to settle for some cookies.

10. DQ SOLD A FROZEN YOGURT OPTION IN THE '90S, BUT IT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

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You may remember the Breeze, a lower-calorie Blizzard alternative that was made with frozen yogurt. It was around for about a decade before the company pulled it from the menu, saying demand was so low that the frozen yogurt would often go bad before it could be used.

11. DALLAS MAVERICKS OWNER MARK CUBAN ANGERED DAIRY QUEEN EMPLOYEES ACROSS THE NATION IN 2002.

image of Mark Cuban at a DQ restaurant holding an ice cream cone and wearing a nametag that says "Tony"
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Cuban suggested that Ed Rush, the NBA's head of officiating, wasn't even capable of managing a Dairy Queen. In response, the company invited the billionaire to give it a shot himself—and he accepted their offer. Wearing a "Tony" nametag, Cuban spent two hours serving customers at a Dairy Queen in Coppell, Texas, in 2002. He had trouble perfecting the trademark "Q" swirl at the top of soft-serve cones.

12. TECHNICALLY, WHEN YOU ORDER A CONE OR CUP AT DAIRY QUEEN, YOU'RE NOT GETTING ICE CREAM.

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According to the company, "Our soft-serve does not qualify to be called ice cream. To be categorized as ice cream, the minimum butterfat content must be 10 percent, and our soft-serve has only 5 percent butterfat."

13. THE DILLY BAR WAS INVENTED IN 1955.

The soft-serve round coated in chocolate and finished with that signature Dairy Queen swirl was introduced to the franchise by Robert Litherland, the co-owner of a store in Moorhead, Minnesota. Employees of an ice cream distributor in Minneapolis showed up at Litherland's door to demonstrate the technique, and finished by holding up the completed bar and saying, "Now, isn't that a dilly!" The name stuck, though Litherland had one regret: "We weren't smart enough to copyright that name." Too bad; it's been getting plenty of use elsewhere lately.

14. THE "MOOLATTE" ICE CREAM TREAT GENERATED SOME CONTROVERSY.

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When DQ rolled out the MooLatte frozen coffee drink in 2004, more than a few eyebrows were raised at the made-up word's similarity to the slur "mulatto." But the controversy wasn't enough to squash the product; it's still around today.

15. DENNIS THE MENACE WAS THE COMPANY SPOKESTOON UNTIL 2002.

When the copyright license expired, Dairy Queen chose not to renew it. It's been speculated that company execs felt Dennis was no longer a character kids related to.

16. THERE WAS ONCE A "LITTLE MISS DAIRY QUEEN."

Clad in a Dutch-style cap, dress, and shoes, Little Miss Dairy Queen was featured as a 5-foot weather vane in a select few locations. Most are gone now, but see if you can spot one on your next road trip.

17. THE WORLD'S LARGEST BLIZZARD WEIGHED 8260.85 POUNDS.

image of soft serve ice cream with Snickers bars mixed inside
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It was made in 2005 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Guinness doesn't specify the flavor, but if we had to guess, we'd say it was Oreo.

18. DAIRY QUEEN ALSO HOLDS THE RECORD FOR THE WORLD'S LARGEST ICE CREAM CAKE.

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Made of sponge cake and vanilla ice cream, the dessert was constructed in Toronto in 2011. It weighed more than 10 tons and was topped with a ridiculous amount of crushed Oreo cookies.

19. SAUDI ARABIA REALLY LOVES DAIRY QUEEN.

image of the exterior of a DQ restuarant
Win McNamee, Getty Images

It must, anyway—otherwise, Berkshire Hathaway wouldn't have opened the world's largest Dairy Queen in Riyadh. The two-level restaurant is 7500 square feet and can seat 240 customers.

20. THE BLIZZARDMOBILE WAS A THING.

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Blizzard in 2010, DQ took a cue from Oscar Mayer and rolled out the Blizzardmobile, a large truck that stopped at 25 cities in the U.S. and Canada. The truck distributed free mini Blizzards and conducted various games for coupons and prizes.

A version of this list first ran in 2016.

This Indoor Garden Grows Up to 30 Fruits and Vegetables With Little Maintenance Required

IGWorks
IGWorks

If you want to always have fresh tomatoes and basil on hand without having to visit your nearest farmers' market or devote multiple hours each week to gardening, there's an easier option—no green thumb required!

The iHarvest is a hydroponic gardening system that lets you grow up to 30 varieties of fruits and veggies—including tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, watermelon, and various herbs—right in your kitchen. Powered by 72 watts of low-energy LEDs, the system's lighting and watering functions are fully automated, which keeps maintenance to a minimum.

All you have to do is plant a seed in an apparatus called the media, place the media in a pod, and add water to the iHarvest. The built-in timers do the rest of the work, ensuring that your plants are adequately fed and nourished each day, regardless of the season. After water is pumped to the plant's roots, it runs through a filter and returns to the bottom reservoir of the iHarvest device. The water and nutrients only need replenished once every two weeks, on average.

It's quick, too. Tomatoes are estimated to reach their full size in 10 days, and everything that you harvest will be free of herbicides and pesticides. Hanging plants and fruits like squash and cucumber can be suspended from the iHarvest's trellis, and the vertical design also makes it ideal for people in tight living quarters. The entire system takes up just 2.5 square feet of space, measuring 2 feet, 8 inches wide.

Order the iHarvest now on Kickstarter to get 35 percent off the retail price, which lowers the total cost to $549. And if you want to do some comparison shopping, you may also like the OGarden Smart—an indoor garden that lets you grow up to 90 fruits and vegetables.

17 Delicious Facts About Peeps

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Getty Images

You know whether you prefer chicks to bunnies, fresh to stale, or plain to chocolate-covered. But there’s a lot you may not know about Peeps, everyone’s favorite (non-chocolate) Easter candy.

1. It used to take 27 hours to make a Peep.

A candy Peep being made
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That was in 1953, when Sam Born acquired the Rodda Candy Company and its line of marshmallow chicks. Back then, each chick was handmade with a pastry tube. Just Born quickly set about automating the process, so that it now takes just six minutes to make a Peep.

2. An average of 5.5 million Peeps are made every day.

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All of them at the Just Born factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In one year, the company makes enough peeps to circle the earth—twice!

3. Yellow chicks are the original Peep, and still the favorite.

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Yellow bunnies are the second most popular color/shape combination. Pink is the second best-selling color.

4. The recipe has stayed pretty much the same.

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The recipe begins with a boiling batch of granulated sugar, liquid sugar, and corn syrup, to which gelatin and vanilla extract are later added. 

5. The equipment has also (mostly) stayed the same.

Peeps candies being made
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Since Just Born turned Peeps-making into an automated process, the chicks have been carefully formed by a top-secret machine known as The Depositor. Created by Sam Born’s son, Bob, The Depositor could manufacture six rows of five Peeps apiece in a fraction of the time it took workers to form them by hand. And that same machine that Bob built has been keeping the Peeps flowing ever since. Until rather recently …

In 2014, the company announced that it was planning to renovate its manufacturing plant, including The Depositor. “It’s a little sad,” vice president of sales and marketing Matthew Pye told Candy Industry Magazine at the time. “Bob Born made it from scratch in 1954 and it allowed us to distribute and grow the brand nationally." 

6. The updated equipment means new Peeps innovations could be coming.

Making Peeps at the Just Born factory
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“The investment in our marshmallow making process will allow for more efficiency, more consistency, improved quality, and additional innovation capabilities,” co-CEO Ross Born told Candy Industry magazine about the new depositor, which will be able to produce a wider variety of Peeps in all sizes. “The [old] Peeps line did one thing and one thing very well—cranking out chicks day in and day out. Five clusters, just in different colors,” Born said.

7. Peeps used to have wings.

They were clipped in 1955, two years after the first marshmallow chicks hatched, to give the candy a sleeker, more “modern” look.

8. The eyes are the final touch.

A close up of a yellow chick Peep
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The final flourish for all of these squishy balls of sweetness is adding the eyes, which are made of carnauba—a non-toxic edible wax (that is also found in some shoe polishes and car waxes, plus many other candies).

9. Peeps may be destructible, but their eyes are not.

Making Peeps at the Just Born factory
Getty Images

In 1999, a pair of scientists at Emory University—dubbed “Peeps Investigators”—decided to test the theory that Peeps are an indestructible food. In addition to a microwave, the pair tested the candy’s vulnerability to tap water, boiling water, acetone, and sulfuric acid (they survived them all). When they upped the ante with some Phenol, the only things that didn’t disappear were the eyes. 

10. They really are everyone's favorite non-chocolate Easter candy.

For more than 20 years now, no other non-chocolate Easter candy has been able to compete with the power of Peeps. With more than 1.5 billion of them consumed each spring, Peeps have topped the list of most popular Easter treats for more than two decades.

11. There are sugar-free Peeps.

Counterintuitive, we know. But in 2007, the first line of sugar-free Peeps hit store shelves.

12. There are also chocolate-covered Peeps.

Chocolate-covered Peeps hit the market in 2010. Today there’s a full line of them for every occasion.

13. Peeps come in a variety of flavors.

Color and shape (i.e. yellow chick) are no longer the only ways to categorize a Peep. They now come in an array of flavors, including fruit punch, sour watermelon, lemon sherbet, blueberry, and pancakes and syrup.

14. Peeps lip balm is a thing.

Yep.

15. On New Year's Eve, a giant Peep is dropped in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.


PEEPS®

The drop is done with a traditional chick that flashes different colors at midnight.

16. Believe it or not, Peeps are not Just Born's best-selling brand.

That honor belongs to Mike and Ike. (Sorry, Peepsters.)

17. They're a boon to a creativity.

Blue chick Peeps
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All over the country, Peeps have become the preferred media for a number of highly anticipated annual art contests. (You can check out some of the coolest creations from Westminster, Maryland's PEEPshow here.)

Updated for 2019.

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