Sometimes an ice cream cone is not just an ice cream cone.
It can be a statement — of defiance, of optimism, one that says I’m just going to totally ignore that it’s really, really still bitter out, because I just want winter to be done.
Sure, it was see-your-breath cold Thursday morning, and the Mohawk River remains icy, and mountainous dirty snowbanks continue to ring parking lots. And when the knifing rain started to fall around 11 a.m., just as Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In opened for the season, it felt like a brutal winter that just won’t end was tightening its grip yet again.
The three Scotia-Glenville High School seniors were having none of it. While more than a hundred people waited in line for burgers and fries, they scooted over for soft ice cream. Yes, that said they didn’t want to wait. But it also said much more.
“It feels like summer,” said Scott Stopera, the point guard on the state champion high school basketball team.
“I think so, too,” chimed in Skylar Plemenik.
Stopera eyed his cone.
“So it’s raining. A little bit of snow on the ground. It feels like summer with Jumpin’ Jack’s open again.”
“Duly noted,” Plemenik said with a nod.
Then the dark skies really opened up, a torrent of a mixed precipitation.
So what? After this winter?
“A little bit of hail never hurt anybody,” Stopera said.
People come out every late March for the 11 a.m. season opening of the drive-in, a rite of spring that attracts high school kids exercising senior privileges — or feigning sickness — area residents and media. A gorgeous day draws a huge crowd. A lousy day draws … a huge crowd dreaming of gorgeous days.
“It’s freaking cold,” owner Mark Lansing Sr. said a half hour before opening. Not that many people were in line yet. He knew they would come. This wasn’t his first rodeo.
“People know it’s going to be cold,” Lansing said. “They’ll say, ‘Let’s go to Jumpin’ Jack’s, because no one is going to be there.’ So we’ll get a lot of people.’”
They did. They always do. The line snaked to the parking lot around picnic tables by the time the Closed for the Season sign came down.
Aliyah Liberatore, a 17-year-old from Rotterdam, was going to be at Jumpin’ Jack’s this day “no matter what.” She is ready to shuck winter, and being here is a symbolic first step.
“I’m ready to break out the shorts and tank tops and sandals,” she said.
Pamela Spicer has been going to opening day for decades. In tow she had little ones, toddlers and younger, from her Spicer Family Day Care.
“The kids wait all winter to come down here,” she said. “The kids have been cooped up too long.”
Everyone has. Lansing said that summer “is right around the corner.”
Depending on how you look at an ice cream cone, you could say it’s already here — even if you see your breath when you say it.