By Madeline Wagoner with the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — Saturday marked the official return of Salisbury’s Cheerwine Festival for the first in-person event in two years.
Attendees flocked to town for food, activities and live music to celebrate. Families from Pennsylvania to Florida were among those who made their way to Salisbury to take part.
“Seeing everyone together after the toll of COVID really makes me happy,” said visitor Shannon Alfaro who traveled from Lincolnton with her husband, Ralph. “This is our first year coming to the festival, we love Cheerwine, but they don’t have all the slushies and snow cones like here.”
It wasn’t just iced treats offered in the food trucks and vendors. More than 30 dining options were available along Main and Innes streets, where whiffs of grilled meat and baked goods surfaced, many featuring Cheerwine as the main flavor. Blended frappucinnos from Mean Mug, baked goods from Abigail’s, beer from New Sarum and the unique Cheerwine kettlecorn were just some of the ways to enjoy the beverage at the event.
New Sarum had sold 600 of the much-talked-about Cheerwine Lagers by 2 p.m.
“Grabbing some Cheerwine ice cream or a slushie is the perfect treat with this hot weather,” said Joy Ritchie-Harper, a fifth generation member of the founding family of Cheerwine and marketing director at Carolina Beverage. “It’s so amazing to see everyone together again. We’re very excited to share the love of Cheerwine for another year and I’m looking forward to the tradition continuing.”
The festival became a collaboration with the city of Salisbury after the 100th birthday celebration in 2017. The city would handle the logistics and Carolina Beverage took care of the advertising.
In addition to merchandise, Carolina Beverage has contributed to the Rowan Museum for an exhibit all about the favored drink. As of 2 p.m. on Saturday, over 1,200 people made their way through the hallway decked in signs and merchandise from the Cheerwine archives.
“It’s almost overwhelming having so many people come through for the exhibit,” said Aaron Kepley, director of the Rowan Museum. “But I’m glad they’re here. We sold out of our merchandise at 1:30.”
Kepley continued with the story as the line of attendees wrapped around the museum. This was the first time the exhibit was displayed in the hallway instead of a room at the end of the museum. Vintage signs and cases of bottled Cheerwine were just a few of the special items. Along F&M Bank’s trolley tour, families could experience the history of the iconic drink.
The Rowan Museum wasn’t the only place selling out of merchandise. Meredith Mills’ contest-winning design was sold out at all the booths by 1 p.m. The design was also up for preorders on cheerwine.com for festival-goers to grab before Saturday’s event.
Just outside the Rowan County Courthouse, the Lauren Light Trio kicked off the live concerts with original songs including “I Got You” and musical favorites by Marshmello and Elle King. Later in the day, Tsunami Wave Riders, 9daytrip, Ayron Jones and Spin Doctors were to take the stage during the free event.
The Fisher Street Stage also featured local artists until 5 p.m., including Lee Knox, Jessica Yates, Cassandra Wright, CJ Peters and Birds of a Feather.
You can visit cheerwinefest.com for all details on the event.