Southern Agenda

Bottle Rocket

Coca-Cola was created in 1886 in Atlanta, but the soft drink really grew legs in 1894, when Joseph Biedenharn noted Coke’s strong sales at his Vicksburg, Mississippi, combo candy shop–soda fountain, and secured the parent company’s permission to bottle it for the first time. (Previously, people could only sip it on-site at soda fountains.) From March 11 to 16, the city and the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, housed in the original Biedenharn building, will celebrate the fizzy first’s 130th anniversary with a sock hop, a drive-in movie, and bourbon and Coke tastings. Nancy Bell, the executive director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, oversees the museum and explains the festivities’ midcentury flavor. “The fifties and sixties were Coke’s heyday, with movies and popular culture of that era showcasing it,” she says. On March 12 (the actual anniversary), visitors touring the museum’s replica soda fountain (which serves Coke floats!), reproduction bottling works, and collection of memorabilia can enjoy a free glass-bottle Coke. Bell would love to give the world a Coke, but only the “real thing.” “New Coke wasn’t Coke,” she says of the reformulation that notoriously flopped back in the 1980s. “I don’t think anyone liked it. We have a single New Coke item: a T-shirt with an X through the New Coke logo.”