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Sullivan’s opening might herald spring in South Boston, but this weekend it snowed all the same

Boston, MA - 2/24/2013 - Jenica Upshaw (cq) of Somerville threw a ball for her dog Austin (cq), a 3-year-old chocolate labrador retriever in Boston Common in Boston, MA on Sunday, February 24, 2013. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff) Slug: n/a Reporter: n/a LOID: 5.0.1725229525
enica Upshaw of Somerville got ready to throw a ball for her dog Austin, a 3-year-old chocolate labrador retriever, as the snow swirled ouot on Boston Common on Sunday. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)Credit: The Boston Globe

They are here, waiting for half-priced hot dogs at Sullivan’s on Castle Island, standing in lines that snake outside when it’s crowded and in small groups near the condiments when it’s not, on this cold, rainy Sunday morning. They are the opening-weekend faithful, parents with kids grabbing snacks before basketball practice, bleary-eyed partygoers looking to cure a hangover, wistful regulars who remember when.

Opening weekend for the South Boston institution, when the stainless steel grills awake from a months-long hibernation, signals the imminence of spring. But, here’s the funny thing about a February spring in New England — it comes with icky, icy, snowy weather.

Snow and freezing drizzle fell much of Sunday throughout Greater Boston, the North Shore, and Central Massachusetts. While a promising start to the workweek is in the forecast, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 40s, conditions should deteriorate again by Wednesday, when the snowy-rainy combination returns.

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“Sometimes it’ll be snow, sometimes it’ll be rain,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Despite the weather, spring, not snow was on Billy Ryan’s mind as he waited for his second mustard and relish dog on Sunday.

A regular at Sully’s for as long as he can remember, Ryan said an opening weekend dog is something to be memorialized — and bragged about it to friends living out of state. He posted photos of Sullivan’s to Facebook. The MBTA employee, who lives in Dorchester, also made a short video, telling his social network: “When Sully’s opens you know spring is coming.”

His connection to Sully’s is not so much about the hot dogs, which he loves, but the place. He remembers eating hot dogs and walking around Castle Island with his parents in the 1970s while his grandparents sat on a bench and people watched.

“It’s the idea of coming down here, the memories,” he explained.

Dan Sullivan Sr. started selling hot dogs out of an aluminum shack for 15 cents in 1951, when color television first hit the airways. Two buildings and 62 years later, Sully’s is still family-owned. Brendan Sullivan, Dan’s grandson, now owns the place. It was his father who cut the hot dog prices in half — to 80 cents — during opening weekend as a way to say thank you to customers. And those customers respond in kind, by flocking to the establishment — rain, snow, or shine.

“Sully’s is the best cure for a hangover,” Robin Anglin told her cousin and sister as she waited for her cheeseburger with mayo and ketchup and a hot dog “all around.” (For the uninitiated, that means with mustard, relish, and onions.)

Anglin, a lifelong Southie resident, says she’s stood in Sully’s lines as long as she can remember. It’s where the 34-year-old brings her nephews when the snow stops and the sun appears. “When I take them to the beach, it’s easier than packing a lunch and stuff,” she said.

But there would be no beach-going on Sunday, as rain turned to heavy wet snow around mid-afternoon.

Snow accumulations of about 2 to 4 inches with traces of ice were predicted by the Weather Service as temperatures dropped below freezing as day turned to night. Because the mercury stayed above 32 for much of the day, rain didn’t turn to snow and roads were warm enough to melt what flakes did fall, offering a reprieve to many communities that were buried in snow earlier this month.

“We don’t even have a plow out yet,” Gloucester Mayor Carolyn A. Kirk said about 2:30 p.m. Sunday. “The rain has done the job for us in terms of washing away the previous snow, and because it’s wet snow and warm on the roadway, it’s not sticking yet.”

Kirk said that snow that doesn’t accumulate doesn’t cost money to remove, a relief considering she feared the city’s snow removal budget would plunge deep into the red by the end of the weekend.

But, for now, the city’s snow removal spending will remain below the feared million-dollar mark, about 35 percent more than the city had set aside.

The weather would not be the barometer for closing-time at Sully’s, said manager Harry Markarian.

The doors stay open, he said, “until the sea gulls outnumber the cars.”

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