Cheerwine: Inspiring Friendship and Fueling the Blue Ridge Spirit


By Eriech Tapia, OK

Cheerwine is the popular drink at CONA, enjoyed by almost every delegate. Traditionally, new delegates sip a cold can of Cheerwine as they enjoy the view from Lee Hall porch. Returning delegates also enjoy the taste. “It’s unique to this place, which allows you to sit on the front porch and talk to each other and discuss everything that happened during the day,” Cory Shirey of Oklahoma said. Xuesan Xiong of Minnesota said, “I chug a Cheerwine every morning before I even take a shower or brush my teeth.” Delegates even use Cheerwine in recipes. Annie Nohava of Missouri likes hers baked in cupcakes.

The story of Cheerwine and how it became the trademark drink of CONA is generally unknown to most delegates and adults. One person who did know the story was Conference Director Bob McGaughey.

McGaughey said, “It all started with a vending machines out behind Lee Hall. There was one machine with Coke and Cheerwine products, but Coke never stocked the machine and Cheerwine was always stocked.” Back in the 1980’s, the vending machine behind Lee Hall was the only place to get a drink when the store wasn’t open, but Cheerwine was always stocked which led to it becoming extremely popular.

According to officials with the Ingles grocery chain, on a typical day, approximately 12, 12-packs of Cheerwine are sold at the Ingles at the foot of the mountain. The Saturday before the conference, Cheerwine sales skyrocketed to 279 12-packs.

Cheerwine was introduced in 1917 and was only sold in North Carolina, but now is sold all over the country.

The love for Cheerwine, however, is not universal. “It’s not as great as everybody says, but better than most sodas,” said Abby Huang of Washington.

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