The second annual Homer Soda Festival was last Saturday. The second year of this festival proved to be a rather fun way to spend the afternoon. Event organizers improved upon last year’s lackluster festival by including VIP tickets, wristbands for unlimited samples, additional food and goods vendors, a car show, and a 5K race. There was a BBQ cook-off, just as there was last year. The festival was 10 a.m.–7:30 p.m., and when I was there in the mid to late afternoon, the place was packed with attendees. There were families, young people, old people, and dogs (with owners). I also noticed that there were many redheads; I noticed this last year, too. (You can look through the gallery below in a Where’s Waldo way, if you’d like.)
The Homer Soda Company, located in Homer, distributes an immense amount of sodas from various brands, in various flavors. With over 20 booths serving samples, there were hundreds of different sodas you could try.
New this year was a handy list of available samples, organized by flavor profile. Looking for something fruity? Pick your fruit. Pick your brand. Find the booth. A festival map was posted, but it was above my eye level, and not in a very noticeable place. Most people took their soda lists and wandered the relatively small festival area.
The lines for the booths were fairly long, but weren’t entirely slow. The thing about sampling soda where there are up to 8 or 10 different varieties at a table is that people want to sample multiple sodas, and they wait at the table taking soda shots as the volunteers pour them more samples. It’s not that big of a deal, but it does hold up the line a bit. With the scorching sun baking my body, it did become a bit uncomfortable at times.
Those who pre-purchased a VIP pass for $20 received a commemorative shot glass. The glasses were pretty good looking, and they helped cut back on trash. Wristbands for unlimited samples were $10. If you didn’t opt for the wristband options, tickets for samples were 25 cents each. A bottle could be purchased for 8 tickets ($2). Samples were 1 ounce pours.
It was so hot outside that there was a little John Deere truck dropping off bags of ice to the booths. No one wants to do shooters of hot soda. Gross. Exellent planning by festival organizers, in my opinon.
Pouring soda into tiny little paper cups can prove difficult, and as such, the tables were often sticky and wet, and generally pretty gross. This made for unappetizing shot-taking; this seemed to set the mood, though, for the table that served Avery’s Totally Gross line of sodas, which included flavors like Dog Drool, Kitty Piddle, and Bug Barf. Avery’s Zombie Brains was served at another booth. Strangely enough, I’ve had Avery’s Dog Drool on a previous occasion (mildly fruity, slight phlegmy consistency), so I opted for the Kitty Piddle (orange/pineapple). It was quite tasty!
Moxie is an old-school elixir
My favorite sodas were the Brownie Root Beer, the CocoFizz, Moxie, and the Key Lime Cream Soda. If you’re heading to the Homer Soda Company, pick up a bottle of each.
After shooting back a few ounces of sugary soda, I decided I needed to complement the liquid sugar with frozen sugar from the Cowridge Farm ice cream truck. I ordered the strawberry cheesecake ice cream, and my husband and friend both ordered the root beer float ice cream—yes, ice cream, not a float—and they were, hands down, no contest, the BEST ice cream I have had in Illinois. Cowridge Farm is located in Elliott, but don't seem to have a brick and mortar store. If you see their big yellow truck, do yourself a favor and get some of the creamiest, most delicious ice cream you will ever have in your life.
root beer float
After downing the ice cream and a few more shots of soda, we all decided it was time for some protein, and we got in line for Bud’s BBQ from Danville.
The line for Bud’s BBQ was excruciatingly long, and with the hot, hot, sun beating on the back of the neck, it’s no wonder why these folks look less than pleased. I think we waited in line for 15 minutes; the food was served up within 3. The Burrito King truck was parked across the way from Bud’s, which made for an altogether unpleasant experience for that guy. We ordered a polish and some rib tips; the polish was super salty, the BBQ sauce super sweet. The rib tips were well cooked, and pretty tasty, albeit a bit messy. Check out the gallery below for photos.
hot and hungry festival attendees
lonely burrito king, and a bearded redhead
All in all, it was a lovely afternoon. We spent about $40 when all was said and done, but we could have easily spent less. We sampled plenty of sugary sweet soda and sugary sweet treats. I’m interested in seeing how this develops over the next couple of years; it could easily become a bid deal if the cards are played right. In fact, it appears as if this event was successful enough to warrant an attempt at a Decatur Soda Festival — that’s happening on September 13th, 10 a.m.–7:30 p.m.
For additional photos, check out the gallery below.