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City Of Salisbury cancels 2021 Cheerwine Festival due to threat of COVID-19 spread

Officials say the decision came after careful consideration and guidance from the Rowan County Health Department, Novant Health and the City of Salisbury.
Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 9:31 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2021 at 7:07 PM EDT
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SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - The City of Salisbury is cancelling the 2021 Cheerwine Festival as the spread of COVID-19 remains a serious concern in the county.

Officials say the decision came after careful consideration and guidance from the Rowan County Health Department, Novant Health and the City of Salisbury.

The festival was originally scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 18.

“We’ve been monitoring the situation closely, and have decided to cancel this year’s festival in order to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in the event,” says W. Lane Bailey, Salisbury city manager. “This was not an easy decision, but following increased and overwhelming concerns, we feel this is the best way to proceed during our current situation.”

“We’re grateful to all our fans who have attended in the past or planned to join us this year,” says Joy Ritchie Harper, vice-president of marketing for Cheerwine and fifth-generation founding family member. “We look forward to welcoming everyone to Salisbury in May 2022 when the festival returns.”

Joseph Heilig is a fixture in downtown Salisbury, and for three years, so was the Cheerwine Festival. Originally conceived as the 100th birthday celebration for the Salisbury-born cherry soft drink, it was such a hit that organizers made it an annual event. In 2019 an estimated 50,000 people attended.

“A very wonderful, wonderful occasion,” Heilig said. “There was wall to wall people, people was friendly.”

And it was good business. Fuller’s Market sells a lot of Cheerwine merchandise and had stocked up for this year’s festival. Sam Wells is disappointed, but says given the rise in COVID-19 cases, understand the decision.

“When everybody wants to come into your store when it’s outside, social distancing and then be able to help people to…the streets might be okay, you know, but trying to get people to understand that you can only have so many people in here,” Wells said.

They said it was a tough decision and know that a lot of folks were planning to be there, including Neal Wilkinson who was anxious to attend his first Cheerwine Festival.

“I’m a big Cheerwine fan,” Wilkinson said. “It’s just unfortunate that things have come down again the way they have, one of these days we’ll get there.”

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