From September 24 to 26, 2004, the town of Atlantic, Iowa, turned Coca-Cola® red. The townspeople and Coca-Cola collectors from across the United States celebrated Coca-Cola and the local bottler of Coca-Cola beverages.
Atlantic, the town that calls itself the "Coca-Cola Capital of Iowa," holds its annual "Coca-Cola Days" celebration each September, and 2004 marked the 20th anniversary of Coca-Cola Days. This year's festival included a tailgating party, a swap meet (antique sale), a silent auction, a parade and a golf tournament.
"Coca-Cola Days" is brought about by the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, the Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company and the Iowa Chapter of the Coca-Cola Collectors Club. The event helps to celebrate the independent bottler and its commitment to the town.
Other store windows along the main street (and parade route) were decorated in various themes celebrating Coca-Cola. The local clothing shop had past "Coca-Cola Days" T-shirts on mannequins. The book store displayed guides to collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia, and other stores featured many Coca-Cola branded items such as stuffed polar bears, soda fountain scenes and items featuring the Sundblom Santa made famous by Coca-Cola.
During the swap meet, Collectors Club members sold Coca-Cola memorabilia. Unlike many Collectors Club conventions, most of the people attending (and buying) at the swap meet were from outside the Club -- local townspeople or those from throughout the Midwestern United States who came to this well-known sale. The swap meet, which featured items ranging from Coca-Cola branded jewelry to used vending machines, is the highlight of the weekend, and the bottling company donates space in its warehouse to hold the sale.
In the warehouse, members of the Collectors Club also set up a museum of rare Coca-Cola memorabilia; the temporary display shows the story of Coca-Cola through music, matchbook covers, pencils, bottles and even past service awards given to employees.
During the parade -- which passes by buildings that still have painted "Coca-Cola" wall signs – the local sixth-grade band played and the townspeople dressed in Coca-Cola themed outfits. Some of the participants had elaborate costumes, including a rocket ship with a sign that read, "Coke -- Out of this world." One participant even fashioned a hot air balloon costume out of a contour bottle shaped plastic cooler. The Chamber of Commerce gave prizes to those with the best costumes.
"Coca-Cola Days" is an example of the role the local Coca-Cola bottler still plays in towns across the United States, and the way the Coca-Cola Collectors Club can collaborate with bottlers and townspeople to celebrate Coca-Cola.
Phil Mooney is the director of the Archives Department.
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