💡 Get Philly smart 💡
with BP’s free daily newsletter

Read the news of the day in less than 10 minutes — not that we’re counting.

The frozen treat company founded by Philadelphia firefighter Bob Tumolo has been ushering in the warmer seasons with free water ice for 30 years now.

When the deal was first rolled out in 1992, the world was a very different place. Microsoft had just released Windows 3.1. Bill Clinton had smashed opponents in Super Tuesday Democratic presidential primaries. Ed Rendell had just been sworn in as mayor, and Charles Barkley was a couple months from getting traded to the Phoenix Suns. Rita’s, which Tumelo had founded in 1984, was about to add custard to its dessert lineup for the first time.

Some things haven’t changed at all. There are nine Rita’s flavors that have been offered through the three decades of the promotion:

  • Cherry
  • Lemon
  • Chocolate
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Root Beer
  • Strawberry
  • Vanilla
  • Watermelon

Cherry, lemon and chocolate are water ice canon, and pineapple is also traditional. Root beer is a crowd-pleaser, something that appeals to kids and grandpas alike. Watermelon, strawberry and vanilla? Classic candy flavors. And mango is still one of Rita’s top-selling flavors. But pour one out for mint chocolate chip, which was on this list five years ago, but is no longer offered.

Of course, there are plenty of other, non-franchised spots to get water ice in Philly. To plan out the rest of your spring slurping, check our list here.

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...