Informed that Dr Pepper has launched a petition drive to become Texas’ official soft drink, a tall drink of water at Waco’s Dr Pepper Museum mulled the matter while touring the tourist attraction around noon Saturday.
“That’s cool. Hell, yeah,” said Cody Steele, 26, up from Austin but raised in Houston. “Georgia is known for Coke, so why can’t we be known for Dr Pepper, officially speaking? I grew up on Coke, but Dr Pepper is a good drink.”
Some might suggest the designation is merely a formality, something already accepted as fact. After all, Texas Monthly in January 2018 labeled the iconic Waco-born pepper-upper the “national soft drink of Texas,” when it wrote about its acquisition by Massachusetts-based Keurig.
But that recognition is not stopping new ownership, which Texas Monthly mockingly referred to as “The Yanks,” from sponsoring a promotion to nudge the Texas Legislature toward a Dr Pepper designation. Through March 2, Texas Independence Day, supporters can sign a change.org petition to help make the 23-flavored drink Texas’ official soda.
“Created in Waco, Texas, in 1885, Dr Pepper is the oldest major soft drink in the United States, and while the brand has grown exponentially since its early years, it has never forgotten where it started,” the change.org site states. “Like any Texan, Dr Pepper has only the deepest pride and appreciation for its home state. Now, Dr Pepper is calling on its passionate fans to support its quest to become the first Official Soft Drink of the Lone Star State.”
Punctuating the cause is Dr Pepper’s release of specially marked 20-ounce Dr Pepper products that include Lone Star State-centric artwork. They depict “some of the state’s most iconic landmarks and landscapes and landscapes,” the page states.
They are available for purchase in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Waco.
The images showcase the familiar trappings of Texas: big-city skylines, armadillos, bluebonnets, yellow roses, longhorns, oil derricks, nods to Hispanic culture, small-town water towers, barbed wire and Waco’s Dr Pepper Museum.
Despite the bitterly cold wind sweeping through downtown Waco on Saturday, that museum was brimming and its parking lot overflowing.
“This is the destination we’ve been seeking,” said Aaron Clark, 29, from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
He flew into Austin earlier in the week and chose to extend his vacation for a rental-car trip up Interstate 35 to Waco.
Accompanying him was his wife, Allyssa Clark, a former basketball and volleyball star at Michigan State University. She inquired about other local attractions and said attending the Lady Bears basketball game Sunday against West Virginia might end the visit on a high note.
On Saturday, she stood staring at an oversized photograph taken in the old Dr Pepper bottling plant near Fifth Street and Mary Avenue, circa 1912. It is mounted in a room where visitors also can watch a grainy video of the soda-making process, read the history and view the remains of a well that supplied water for making a product that, seemingly, launched countless slogans, among them: The Friendly Pepper Upper, Just What the Dr Ordered, King of Beverages, Be A Pepper, and Dr Pepper Makes the World Go Round.
Smiling broadly, Mike O’Connell, 69, from South Bend, Indiana, wondered if he was qualified to opine on Dr Pepper’s quest for statewide recognition.
“I would think it would be OK,” he understated.
He said he and his wife, Carla O’Connell, are vacationing in Texas and Louisiana before returning to the Midwest. This is his first visit to Waco, though he was stationed in San Antonio while serving in the Air Force.
A self-proclaimed history buff, Jason Eddins, 39, is in Waco to attend a Shriners convention. Wife Britnie and son Spencer joined him at the museum.
“She loves Dr Pepper,” Eddins said. “I’m an RC Cola guy myself.”
Eddins said recognizing Dr Pepper as the state drink of record makes sense. After all, he said, Georgia has made public relations hay from its affiliation with Coca-Cola, which has a museum called Coca-Cola World on a 20-acre site in Atlanta.
Pepsi celebrates its history at the Pepsi Store in New Bern, North Carolina.
Waco’s Dr Pepper Museum, like other inner-city attractions, has enjoyed an uptick in traffic since pre-Magnolia Market days. Its attendance totals approached 150,000 in 2018, an all-time record, according to figures provided by the Waco Convention and Tourism Bureau and museum leadership.
Expansion continues, with a painting crew present Saturday.
That is not to say Dr Pepper, or the notion it should be proclaimed the state’s official carbonated drink, is without competitors. A comment on its petition page urges rebuffing efforts to crown “nasty Dr Pepper,” and to choose Big Red instead, another Waco native.
Still, the Dr Pepper petition had more than 20,700 signatures, out of a goal of 25,000, as of early Saturday evening.
And, as Texas Monthly put it, “Voting to recognize Dr Pepper, while a bit of a time-waster, is the sort of charming political procedure that’s likely to sail through both houses with bipartisan support. Who wants to be the state legislator who voted against Dr Pepper, after all?”