If Salisbury and Rowan County aren’t already packed with originality, being the birthplace of Cheerwine definitely puts our neck of the woods over the threshold.
The cherry-flavored nectar has a legacy and character all its own, and as Salisbury gears up to celebrate its second Cheerwine Festival on Saturday, May 19, folks are already snapping up all things Cheerwine, from hats to T-shirts to barbecue sauce.
More than 30,000 people attended the 2017 Cheerwine Centennial Celebration, a festival commemorating the soft drink’s 100th birthday.
Fullers Market on South Main Street, which carries a wide array of Cheerwine swag, has ordered extra batches of the popular logo T-shirts in several different colors in advance of the festival and set up a Cheerwine-themed display front and center as shoppers walk in the door. Also on sale at the store are items including branded socks, coolers, bags, kitchen towels, drink koozies, and Cheerwine-flavored jelly and barbecue sauce – plus diet and regular varieties of the hometown soft drink. While you’re there, sip one of their Cheerwine slushies, which are the perfect consistency and sweetness to perk up a warm spring afternoon.
Cheerwine products sell well all year long at the store, said Fuller's owner Sam Wells. T-shirts are always popular, especially at Christmas, she said. People just seem to flock to anything emblazoned with that original, red Cheerwine logo.
So, exactly what makes Cheerwine such an original?
- First of all, it’s been bottled since 1917 and lays claim to being the oldest continuing soft drink company still run by the same family. Five generations of the family of founder L.D. Peeler have worked at the company since its beginning. Peeler purchased a recipe for a cherry-flavored soda from a St. Louis flavor salesman and perfected the formula that became Cheerwine.
- It’s the original cherry soft drink, coming out far ahead of followers such as Cherry Coke, Wild Cherry Pepsi and Cherry Dr. Pepper, which didn’t show up on the scene until the 1980s and beyond.
- That spunky cherry flavor was born of necessity: At the time L.D. Peeler was creating his formula, sugar was being heavily rationed in the country. Adding the cherry flavoring enabled him to reduce the amount of sugar he used.
- Its name makes it one confusing beverage and, upon hearing about it for the first time, many people think it’s really wine. It is burgundy in color, but that’s about the only similarity: Cheerwine is 100 percent alcohol-free.
- It’s darn fizzy. Cheerwine has a higher level of carbonation than many other sodas, making it bubblier, but less “foamy,” than other soft drinks.
- The makers of Cheerwine haven’t been tempted to fiddle around with the formula like some soft drink companies. Other than launching a diet version, Cheerwine’s taste has remained the same through the years.
- Until the 1990s, Cheerwine was a bragging right of North Carolinians and was not sold outside the state.
Help celebrate this true hometown original at the May 19 festival. The free event will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will feature plenty of cold Cheerwine, live music, food, merchandise, family activities, and craft vendors. More Info