By CHAD FRED BAILEY
On Friday, July 17, at a 9 a.m. ceremony, one area drink received its mark in history with a Tennessee Historical Marker. “Johnson City: Home of Mountain Dew” Tennessee Historical Marker at the corner of Cherokee Street and West Walnut Street in the corner of the Tree Streets Historic District became the 58th Tennessee Historical Marker dedicated within Washington County. The Home of the Dew has been a controversial discussion for years, with Marion, Virginia and Johnson City, Tennessee both claiming the designation, yet the Tennessee Historical Commission issued the final decision with the approval of this marker.
According to the marker, Tri-City Bottling Company, owned and operated by Charles O. Gordon, became the first to bottle what would become Mountain Dew in 1954, but it would not be until 1958, when plant manager, Bill Bridgeforth developed a new citrus-lemonade flavor drink called Tri-City Lemonade, which was placed in Mountain Dew in 1960. This flavor has been used in Mountain Dew ever since. In 1961, the rights of this formula were obtained by William H. “Bill” Jones of Tip Corporation of Marion, Virginia, who sold the formula to PepsiCo in 1964.
Since this time, Mountain Dew has become the third largest soda brand sold in the United States and continues to be a favorite of many within this area, even though it is no longer locally bottled. In 2012, PepsiCo introduced a Mountain Dew called Johnson City Gold in honor of its beginnings within Johnson City. In honor of the drink’s 65th birthday, the B. Carroll Reece Museum on the East Tennessee State University campus has opened an exhibit to honor the drink. ‘The Tri-City Beverage Story’ is an exhibit opened on Monday, July 22, and will run through Monday, Sept. 30, which features artifacts from local collectors of Dr. Enuf and Mountain Dew, showcasing the history of the drinks and the bottling company which made them.