SALISBURY — Cheerwine barbeque, Cheerwine infused beers, Cheerwine cannolis, and so much more, were just the tip of the iceberg for Salisbury’s annual Cheerwine Festival. This year’s festival was May 20th from noon to 10PM, featuring shops, snacks, and shows galore to celebrate the over 100 year old family business.
“There is always such a buzz and excitement. People come to the festival from literally all over the country,” Vivian Koontz, City of Salisbury Events Coordinator said. “Cheerwine has such a strong following that people are really excited to be here.”
Cheerwine began in 1917 by L.D. Peeler in Salisbury in the midst of a sugar shortage. Due to the shortage, Peeler discovered a wild cherry flavoring that paired well with the other flavors in motion. Cheerwine is the oldest continuing soft drink and has been run by the same family since the start.
“You could say Cheerwine runs through my blood,” Joy Harper, Vice President of Marketing for Cheerwine said. Harper’s great-great-grandfather, is L.D. Peeler. “I always had an interest in the family business growing up. I held summer jobs, then I went to school to focus on business and there was an opportunity to come back to work for the family business.”
The mix of the soft drink was and is today a burgundy color, bringing the “wine” reference into play. The “cheer” was added because of how the drink made people feel: cheery.
“Cheerwine has been based here in our hometown for over 100 years, still family owned and operated, and employing over 800 people in the area” Harper said. “Our fans through generations have made it a part of their celebrations, traditions, and it’s become engraved as a part of southern culture.”
The first Cheerwine Festival was hosted by Cheerwine in 2017 to celebrate the compay’s 100th birthday. Following that festival, the city of Salisbury decided to partner with Cheerwine to make the festival an annual event. The Cheerwine Festival itself offers activities for both children and adults to indulge in.
“We have always had the rock wall at the festival, it’s kind of the staple piece, right in the middle, it showcases the festival,” Koontz said. “F&M Bank provides our activities, they are the sponsor of the Kids Zone and they have a lot of activities for the kids.”
Along with the rock tower available for children to climb, F&M bank also provides balloons, sandboxes, games, and much more. Many adult activities are also found around the streetways.
“We try to have really great food, we’re selective about our music to make sure we have a good variety that reaches all genres,” Koontz said. “The Cheerwine beer is always a driving force, and all of those Cheerwine-inspired things you can only get at the festival.”
The four featured artists/bands ranged from everyone’s favorite country music,
performed by Ryan Perry, to New Local, a Charlotte local band, playing admired pop music. Divided by Four brought a saltwater breeze to Salisbury with their classic jazz and beach music. To end the night, the multiplatinum alternative quartet Neon Trees performed award winning songs to hundreds of screaming fans.
“If you are new to the Carolinas, it [Cheerwine] is a great welcoming to the Carolinas,” Harper said. “It is unlike any other soft drink, and you are supporting a local business.”