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Airstream road trip to Hastings, Nebraska, home of Kool-Aid



Are you returning home from Alumapalooza westbound on I-80? After 13 hours on the road you’ll need a break. Take the half hour detour to Hastings, Nebraska, home of Kool-Aid.


Deep within the bowels of the Hastings Museum, past the antique cars and taxidermied coyotes, remains every possible relic from the Kool-Aid years, circa 1927 to the present. You’ll learn about nerdy young Edwin Perkins, who began his snack drink empire in his mother’s Nebraska kitchen, tinkering around with various concoctions that he undoubtedly forced upon his family. His early efforts led years later to the development of “Fruit Smack”, the unconcentrated version of the granulated sugar delivery system we know today as Kool-Aid.


The colorful exhibit is a time capsule of every Boomer’s childhood. Kool-Aid, like it or not, is woven into the fabric of America and was probably served to kids while the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, Nixon delivered his Checkers speech, and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. (Well, that would have been Tang.)


All the spokescharacters are featured, especially “Kool-Aid Man” who replaced winking “Pitcher Guy” and the long-outdated, oddly Alpine-attired “Kool-Aid Kid”. You remember Kool-Aid Man; in 1975 he began bursting into children’s birthday parties and playgrounds through brick walls and fences whenever kids screamed “Hey Kool-Aid!” (I wonder how many trips to urgent care resulted from children re-enacting those commercials.) 


I also enjoyed the fabulous vintage packaging, old advertising tear sheets, the original art from the 40s, and the nostalgic merchandise including a soft drink stand kit with a “How to Run Your Kool-Aid Stand” business manual. (Do kids still sell Kool-Aid on the sidewalk? Or do they have to file for a city permit?) 


Before you leave, be sure to pick up some Kool-Aid flavored chapstick in the gift shop, and vote for your favorite flavor—you know you have one. (Tropical Punch has been in first place since 1977.)


More Kool-Aid Fun Facts

Number of original flavors: six. (Today, there are seven. Raspberry was replaced by Tropical Punch and Lemonade.)


Kool-Aid sold for five cents a package from the 1930s through the 60’s.


More than 563 million gallons of Kool-Aid are consumed each year—that’s 17 gallons every second (at 24g of sugar per 8oz glass; slightly less than regular Coke.)


Other brands born in Nebraska: Cliffs Notes, Cabela’s, vice grips, Arbor Day, center pivot irrigation, and the tin roof sundae.


2 Responses to “kool-aid”

  • Robin M.:

    Unfortunately yesterday we headed East from Alumapalooza on I-70 to our home in Maryland! This boomer also grew up with Cherry Kool-Aid in the fridge and a cupboard containing those little packets (prior to the ones that contained the sugar as well). Thanks for bringing back fond memories of my Mom!

  • rg coleman:

    Thanks Robin! Hope you had fun at Alumapalooza. Do you also remember “Funny Face” drinks? I had those: Goofy Grape, Freckle Face Strawberry, Loud Mouth Lime, etc. You should look back on the packaging from the 60s; Injun Orange and Chinese Cherry are totally racist!!

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