This past Saturday, the streets of Main and Brick in Homer, Illinois were host to the fourth annual Homer Soda Festival. The festival continued rain or shine (mostly rain), but was still a blast and had a good turnout. Hosted and organized by the Homer Soda Company, the Soda Festival is not an event to miss in 2017 if you couldn't make it this year. Featuring more than just soda tasting, including a BBQ cook-off, pony rides (when the rain died down), live musical entertainment, and more, the Soda Festival had a lot to offer soda fanatics and novices of all ages.
The main event was obviously the soda. More than 150 different sodas were available for tasting at this year’s Soda Festival. Some were made by brands you are probably very familiar with such as Jones or Jelly Belly; others were a bit more obscure, such as 164 Brewing, Yacht Club, and Hopwater.
To assist in the tasting process, Homer Soda Festival patrons were offered three different tasting options for this year’s event. The cheapest option was 10 tastings for $4. If you didn't want a number to be placed on your soda enjoyment, unlimited tastings could be purchased for $15. Those more invested in the soda experience could purchase one of 500 VIP tickets in advance of the festival via the event's website. The VIP experience included a commemorative Homer Soda Festival shot glass, unlimited tastings, access to a “Fast Track” line at all the booths, a black Jones brand logo bag, as well as a notebook and pencil so to take notes on their favorite and most interesting tastings.
With so many options I felt it was best to go into the festival with a strategy. With a strategy focused on 1) ease and 2) cheapness, I bought 10 tastings for $4 at the event. There’s only so much stomach space for sugar and carbonation, especially if you’re like me and would want to eat some Dragon Fire Pizza, Burrito King, or Chester’s BBQ prior to tasting your sodas.
My second plan of attack after arming myself with my handy-dandy list of tasting booths was to utilize my tasting tickets on the strangest of flavors and soda names. My tastes included Yacht Club’s Sarsparilla, Ominous by 164 Brewing, Avery’s Dog Drool and Monster Mucus, some Brownie Caramel Root Beer, and MacFUDDY Peppy Elixir, just to name a few. On the other hand, one of my compatriots was out to try the weirdest/most unique root beers. The playing field was definitely wide open to try only orange sodas, ginger sodas, or whatever your preference. If my stomach could have taken more, 10 more tastings definitely would have been fun. Going to the event next year, unlimited tastings would be tempting, especially if the number of unique flavors increased from this year to 2017. In any case, no matter your ticket selection or soda preferences, everyone’s taste buds were in for an adventure.
Because I am a cheesy person who appreciates souvenirs, I did get a screen-printed Homer Soda Festival souvenir shirt printed by Weiskamp for $15. Posters were also available for $10. Despite the small operation, a few different shirt designs were available, as well as seven different t-shirt colors. So if that was your thing, your choices were not limited.
Another superb souvenir option was the opportunity to buy your favorite soda. You could purchase invididual bottles or mix and match your favorites to put together a six pack. I personally chose to talk away from the Homer Soda Festival with Avery's Dog Drool and Yacht Club's Grapefruit sodas.
The weather was a bit of a downer, but did not seem to have too much of an impact on the turnout. Plenty of people were there to eat, drink, and be merry. One good effect the rain had on the event was short lines and readily available parking. So for a first time Homer Soda Festival attendee, I did appreciate the streamlined experience the rain provided.
All in all, whether you call it soda, pop, or soda-pop, the Homer Soda Festival was a hit. Pony rides were delayed and laser tag were cancelled, but fun was still to be had for a low price. If you wanted to, you could definitely walk away having only spent $4. So if you missed it this year, definitely mark your calendars for the first Saturday in June 2017, and hit up the Homer Soda Festival.
For more information about the Homer Soda Festival, check out its website.
All photos by Ashley Huddson.