NISSWA -- Everyone could use a little help now and then -- and almost everybody loves the cool taste of icy root beer floats on a hot summer day, especially if it is free.

The A&W Restaurant in Nisswa handed out its signature treat Tuesday, Aug. 6, made with its root beer and rich, creamy, vanilla soft serve as part of National Root Beer Float Day.

“Usually, we give away over 500 free small root beer floats on this day,” said Emma Krueger, who owns the fast-food franchise with her husband. “So far, in our first four years of doing this, we’ve made over $800,000 for disabled American veterans.”

The A&W in Nisswa has been in business since 1966, but the Kruegers have been the owners for the past five years and, during that time, have always participated in the nationwide A&W fundraiser for Disabled American Veterans.

“Many of the original franchise operators and owners were veterans coming back from World War I,” Krueger said.

The root beer floats were offered from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. No purchase was necessary, but donations to the Disabled American Veterans were encouraged. A parade of endless customers snaked its way along the walls of the A&W while the outdoor patio tables and chairs were full.

“People have been really coming out very strong to show their support for us,” said Tim Brastrup, a 69-year-old Army veteran from Baxter at the A&W with other Vietnam veterans.

Michael Williams served in the military from 1969 to 1973. The 68-year-old Brainerd resident was aboard the USS Hancock attack aircraft carrier and attended the A&W fundraiser Tuesday.

“I look at it as a really neat thing to see people come out and support the Disabled American Veterans. It’s always good to see that,” Williams said.

Mark Persons is a member of the All Veterans Memorial Committee, the Brainerd Memorial Day Committee and the Brainerd Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1647. He was at the A&W, too.

“It’s veterans helping veterans. We help each other through life,” said Persons, a 72-year-old resident of Brainerd. “In the military, we were taught to be self-sufficient, to do everything for ourselves.”

Dawn Bandel of Brainerd was outside the A&W helping her two grandchildren -- Mason Matich, 3, and Grayce Matich, 9 -- who live in Nisswa with their mother, Bandel’s daughter.

“We saw this on Facebook and thought we would come,” Bandel said.”I just thought it would be something fun to do with the grandchildren and just to get out of town, out of Brainerd.”

Bandel was not the only one who thought so. Sandy Hudak is the activities director of Northern Lakes Senior Living in Baxter. She traveled to the A&W with some of her residents who enjoyed the taste of the frothy concoction that must have been a trip down memory lane.

Stephanie Chantcheu is a Brainerd public schools teacher who grew up in Wisconsin. The 35-year-old Baxter resident took her children -- Belle, 10, Savannah, 11, Cameron, 8, and Aaliyah, 3, and a childhood friend of theirs, Sara Hanson, 12 -- to the A&W.

“We heard they were giving free floats for DAV, so we came here because it was a hot day, it’s a good treat and a good cause. We used to have a drive-up A&W where we used to go and have floats when we were little,” Stephanie Chantcheu said as order numbers were constantly called.

Belle Chantcheu said between sips of her root beer float, “We sometimes get root beer floats at home, but they’re really good when we actually get them here. … I love it. Mine’s almost gone.”

A&W and veterans

Entrepreneur Roy W. Allen set up shop on the streets of Lodi, Calif., in 1919, offering a brand new creamy and refreshing drink served in a frosty mug. It was a hot June day, and Allen thought his concoction would be the perfect accompaniment for the parade honoring the return of World War I veterans. His root beer was a hit -- a unique and tasty, fresh-made blend of herbs, spices, barks and berries that has remained a symbol of celebration, innocence and camaraderie ever since.

Source: A&W Restaurants Inc.