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Michelle Cuestas and her grandson, Brayden Banks, were first in line on a chilly March 1, 2024. Inset; the duo last attended the seasonal opening together in 2018. (Metro Wire photos)

Faithful Belts’ fans stick it out overnight

By Brandi Makuski

Two Rivers resident Michelle Cuestas doesn’t eat ice cream, but that won’t stop her from being first in line for Friday morning’s annual opening of Belts’ Soft Serve.

Cuestras, a Stevens Point native, can’t eat sweets due to a health condition, but she and her grandson, Brayden Banks, 20, had their tent set up by 7 a.m. on Thursday. The two have a lot of experience waiting in the Belts’ line together.

Nine years’ worth, in fact.

Cuestras took Banks, now a student at UW-Stevens Point, for his first taste of Belts’ in 2010. Their simple story of waiting in line for 43 hours that year swept the internet: Cuestras said people outside the community just couldn’t believe anyone would sleep in a tent for two days waiting for ice cream.

But it’s no surprise for locals, who for years have camped out overnight for the season opening of the soft serve stand, sometimes bringing space heaters, grills, and ice-fishing shacks to keep warm.

But the family’s annual tradition was put on pause when Cuestras moved out of the area. The March 1 Belts’ opening was the first time the two camped out together since 2018.

“When I moved back, he called me and said, ‘Grandma, do you want to camp out?’ And I said, ‘yeaaah,'” She said, chuckling. “We had to be first in line; it’s kind of a competition, and we’re always first in line,” she said on the 36-degree Friday morning.

Brayden Banks during his first overnight camp at Belts’ in 2010. (Courtesy Brayden Banks)

“When we first started, this parking lot was full,” Cuestras said. “Now not too much anymore. But people will still honk, they bring you food. It always turns into the best time — even though the line can be really long, you meet a lot of people and make new friends.”

“It used to be like a little neighborhood,” said Banks, who is studying, among other things, political science at UWSP, and is on the Dean’s List there.  “You’d see a lot of tents, almost like a whole block. It was cool.”

Banks said he plans to continue the tradition of camping overnight at Belts’ when he has children of his own.

Belts’ is now in its 44th year of selling cones, sundaes, and shakes. The window opened at 11 a.m. on March 1 and gave away t-shirts and signature Belts’ glasses to the first several customers in line.

Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Belts’ is located at 2140 Division St. in Stevens Point.