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‘Happy from the beginning’: Cheerwine Festival set for May 16 this year

By Liz Moomey

liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Cheerwine Festival is returning to Salisbury in four months.

And there is no downtime as organizers prepare for the fourth annual festival on May 16 to celebrate the 103-year-old soft drink founded and based in the city.

Vivian Koontz, the event coordinator with the City of Salisbury, said preparations for this year’s festival actually began at last year’s event when approximately 60,000 attended.

For Koontz, it’s a privilege for the city to be able to partner with Cheerwine, which has a name that brings joy and excitement to the city.

“It’s happy from the beginning,” she said.

The festival has grown since its start in 2017 with 30,000 visitors.

The Cheerwine Festival has resulted in a boost to the city’s economy, with 2019’s event resulting in an estimated impact of $1.5 million.

The Cheerwine Festival as stuck around growing year after year, Joy Ritchie Harper, vice-president of marketing for Cheerwine and fifth-generation founding family member, said.

“We first hosted the Cheerwine Festival in 2017 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Cheerwine, and it’s since become an annual opportunity for us to celebrate our fans; the unique tastes, sips and sounds of the Carolinas; and our cheerful hometown,” Harper said. “The festival has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years, and we are grateful for the growing number of people who travel from near and far to join us for a day of family-friendly fun.”  

Koontz said they designed the footprint of the Cheerwine Festival to grow. This year they will back the stage up on North Main Street to the Rowan County Court House from the Rowan Museum. The kids zone will be moved to East Innes Street.

They will be offering a second entertainment area and beer garden. Every day they are thinking about something to add to the festival, she said.

The pieces of the festival are coming together. The musical acts were confirmed, which they will announce in March. Previous years brought in Smath Mouth and Sister Hazel. The musical act this year will be diverse in age and in genre in music.

“We are very excited about our selection this year,” Koontz said.

Vendor applications will be open Feb. 1 and continue to April 3, when the city will review and accept the artists and craft, food or beer vendors. This year the festival will be able to accommodate more vendors.

They will be opening up sponsorship applications soon.

Volunteers can apply to help out with parking, booths or trash. They must apply with a civic or service group. The applications are live on the Cheerwine festival website.

They will also provide more parking information for the day. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and West End Plaza will be satellite locations for parking and the city will bus attendees to the festival.

Cheerwine is asking for help to design a 2020 festival t-shirt. The contest is open and will continue until March 6 to enter at cheerwine.com/festival-contest.  The winner will  receive hotel accommodations, a Cheerwine Festival gift basket and downtown dollars. Judges will select the top five entries, based on visual appeal, uniqueness and creative incorporation of Cheerwine. The general public will select the winner by voting for their favorite design available on Cheerwine’s website. The winner will be announced in early April.

With the Bell Tower Green park likely to be open for the 2021 festival, Koontz said Main Street will still be the center, and the park will be the home of secondary aspects. She said they are mindful of not overtaxing the resources and want to be able to accommodate whatever crowd comes downtown.

Koontz doesn’t see the festival going anywhere.

The Cheerwine Festival has put on Salisbury on the map, she said.

“We feel like the Cheerwine Festival has begun to be the premier event,” Koontz said.

Mayor Karen Alexander said she is excited to welcome visitors into Salisbury at the festival.

“Since the inaugural festival in 2017, we’ve looked forward to introducing more first-time visitors to Salisbury’s bustling downtown district that features one-of-a-kind restaurants and breweries, unique shopping, a thriving arts scene and more,” Alexander said. “We’re excited to have everyone discover our great city and see why it’s known as ‘a Carolina original.’”

The Cheerwine Festival is “a way to completely showcase Salisbury,” Koontz said.

The festival is May 16 at noon to 10 p.m. in downtown Salisbury.

More details on the festival, visit cheerwinefest.com or follow the Facebook event “The Cheerwine Festival.”

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