Birthday bash: A user’s guide to Cheerwine Centennial Celebration

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 18, 2017

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — Cheerwine is planning a 100th birthday celebration Saturday that could be Salisbury’s party of the century.

From noon to 8 p.m., along two blocks of North Main Street, the Cheerwine Centennial Celebration will offer live music, a biergarten, barbecue, a “fun zone” for kids, an extensive exhibit of company artifacts and, of course, plenty of Cheerwine.

There is no admission price.

The Salisbury-bred soft drink was first produced here during a sugar shortage in 1917.

While the number of people attending Saturday’s festival is difficult to predict — you’re safe in saying thousands — suffice it to say Amtrak is offering a discounted ticket (15 percent) for passengers coming from the directions of Raleigh and Charlotte to Salisbury.

Free Cheerwine will be served to the train passengers that day.

City of Salisbury bus shuttles — also free — will run hourly to and from West End Plaza (the former Salisbury Mall) and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Both of those places offer plenty of parking.

The shuttle drops off passengers at the main entrance to the festival. Our State Magazine will host the welcome center. Shuttles will depart hourly for the parking lots from North Main and Kerr streets.

“This party is a celebration of our loyal fans, our home state and all of the people who’ve helped make Cheerwine the iconic beverage it is today,” said Joy Harper, marketing head for Cheerwine and the great-great-granddaughter of founder L.D. Peeler.

The late Clifford Peeler, who headed Cheerwine for some 60 of its 100 years, once said if he were marooned on an island and had a choice between Cheerwine and water, he would choose Cheerwine.

That was no knock against water, Peeler said, “but you get tired of water.”

Many people today grew up with Cheerwine and share Peeler’s love and loyalty to the soft drink. Saturday’s celebration will be like heaven for them.

The North Main Street celebration will take place between Council and Kerr streets.

Besides free Cheerwine and commemorative koozies, limited-edition Cheerwine merchandise will be for sale, starting at noon, along with limited quantities of commemorative Cheerwine signs and other items.

Food from Cheerwine partners and friends will include Krispy Kreme doughnuts made in the company’s Hot Now Mobile Store, Bojangles’, Johnsonville, Fatz Cafe, Biscuitville, Select Bakery (serving Cheerwine cake), Cackalacky (makers of a Cheerwine barbecue sauce), King of Pops (serving Cheerwine-flavored popsicles), kettle corn and barbecue.

The People’s Choice Barbecue Competition will be from noon to 2 p.m. during which the public can sample barbecue from five competitors and vote for their favorites.

The competitors include Hog Heaven Barbecue, N.C. Ribs on Wheels, Rocky Top BBQ, Boone’s Bar-B-Que and Smoke & Go BBQ. Smithfield is the pork sponsor for the competition. The winner will be announced at the main stage off West Liberty Street at 3 p.m.

The live music during the day on the main stage will include Time Sawyer, Gyth Ridgon, Empire Strikes Brass, Acoustic Syndicate and Roomful of Blues.

The biergarten will feature craft beer from New Sarum, Morgan Ridge and Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.

The Rowan Museum at 202 N. Main St. has a free multiroom exhibit of Cheerwine history and artifacts that will be open during the festival.

The kids’ “fun zone” and a stage will offer magicians, jugglers, a rock climbing wall, obstacle course, slides, a bounce house and lawn games. In other words, there will be entertainment for children throughout the day.

The Centennial Celebration also will be a chance to help Rowan Helping Ministries. For every two nonperishable food items or $5 donated at the Food Lion/Rowan Helping Ministries booth, the donor becomes eligible for a gift basket drawing.

Food Lion Feeds has partnered with RHM in a mission to end hunger in Rowan County, where one out of three children live in poverty. Across Food Lion’s 10-state footprint, Food Lion Feeds is committed to donating 500 million meals by 2020.

A 1927 Cheerwine Ford truck will be on display, and Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander will give an official welcome to the crowd and a proclamation in honor of Cheerwine’s birthday at 1:30 p.m. on the main stage.

For information on Amtrak’s 15 percent discount, go to

For the shuttle schedule from West End Plaza and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, go to

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.