Among the first signs of spring in this region: the annual announcement of Gordy Hi-Hat's opening date.

It's March 24, according to a very Minnesota post on its Facebook page featuring a neon sign held by a human submerged in open ice next to a cutout of the namesake dressed in full apron with a towel draped across his maybe cardboard? shoulders.

It's the Cloquet-based destination restaurant's 61st year in operation, and a Guy Fieri pick for his show "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives." Gordy's Hi-Hat is best known for its burgers, fresh cut fries and tower o' fish.

Other rites of spring

The boards are off, and the West Duluth Dairy Queen is open for business, another famous rite of spring.

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May the only blizzards, henceforth, include chunks of Snickers and come from this spot on Grand Avenue.

Reader mail: Pandemic pantry edition

Reader Karen Gustafson of Knife River responded with a witty note to a recent column about eating during the pandemic ("Christa Lawler column: Food is arts, math, magic, science … oh, and we eat it, too" Feb. 24, Page C1).

She wrote:

"In the early weeks of March, when we were just becoming aware of the possibility of social distancing, quarantining or shelter in place, I, along with the prudent, the panicked and the practical, began to assess the contents of my pantry and my freezer."

Gustafson said she lives 8 miles from the nearest grocery store and regularly stocks up on groceries. She did so again and felt good about the medium-sized hauls she had made, she wrote. But.

She realized they might run out of ketchup. She swung by Mount Royal Market.

"I arrived at the checkout line with two bottles of ketchup, two jars of capers, and a bottle of red wine vinegar," she wrote. "On either side of me in the line were folks with piles of toilet paper and frozen pizza and heaps of macaroni. It may have been my imagination, but I thought I caught my shopping partners looking suspiciously at the contents of my car which caused me to quip, "Yup, you don't want to get caught in a pandemic without the right condiments."