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Cheerwine Festival canceled due to safety, health concerns

SALISBURY — Cheerwine and the city of Salisbury on Wednesday announced the cancellation of this year’s Cheerwine Festival, scheduled for May 16, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Instead of the day-long street festival that brought an estimated 60,000 visitors to downtown Salisbury last year, participants will be able to attend a virtual festival.

Hank Sforzini, a Cheerwine spokesman, sent the announcement saying the company’s main priority is the safety and health of attendees as well as everyone involved.

“This decision did not come easily, but we look forward to seeing all the people who travel from near and far to celebrate with us and our families at next year’s festival,”  said Joy Ritchie Harper, vice-president of marketing for Cheerwine and fifth-generation founding family member.

City Manager Lane Bailey said the decision to cancel the Cheerwine Festival was difficult.

“We were optimistic at the outset of recent events that there might be an opportunity to move forward with the Cheerwine Festival,” Bailey said. “After closely monitoring the situation since mid-March, we made the difficult call late last week to cancel the event. We appreciate the support from Cheerwine fans across the country as we all deal with the effects this pandemic has had on us all.”

Bailey said they look forward to hosting the 2021 Cheerwine festival on May 15, 2021.

The virtual festival will be on May 16.

The online event will feature live virtual performances from the originally scheduled 2020 Cheerwine Festival bands. The festival organizers will announce additional details, including how fans can join in and how to support festival vendors and downtown Salisbury businesses, in the coming weeks.

Cheerwine is still debuting its 2020 Festival T-shirt as a way to raise funds for Rowan County United Way. All profits from the sale of the shirts will go to the organization’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, which is raising money so that local nonprofits can help people with needs associated with the outbreak.

The T-shirt’s original artwork is by Johnathan Marcus Woods, the grand prize winner of the inaugural Cheerwine Festival T-shirt design contest. Earlier this year, the family-owned soft drink invited all of its fans to submit their original designs for consideration. 

“I really wanted to capture the joy and whimsy the Cheerwine brand embodies,” Woods said of the inspiration for his design. “I took inspiration from retro cartoons to add a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity to the design.” 

He emphasized the cherry iconography and provided a playful, fresh visual take on the “Cherry” and its personality. 

Wood’s t-shirt will be available at store.cheerwine.com/clothing.html for preorders. For more information on Cheerwine, visit cheerwine.com.

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