BLUEFIELD – Chamber officials are turning to the past to help bring Bluefield’s world-renowned lemonade promotion into the future.
The lemonade campaign had to be suspended last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but free lemonade will flow once this summer in Bluefield if, and when, the mercury hits 90 degrees.
And when it does hit 90 degrees again in Nature’s Air-Conditioned City, the Chamber of Commerce of the two Virginias will be ready with a new look for the historic campaign.
“We want to harken back to the glory days of the Lemonade Lassies and bring some of the prestige back to the event,” Jeff Disibbio, president and CEO of the chamber, said of the tradition of serving free lemonade when the mercury hits 90. The promotion dates back all the way to 1939.
Back in the day, it was a big deal when the city hit 90 degrees. Vintage photographs from the 1940s and 1950s, which are on display at the Eastern Regional Coal Archives at the Craft Memorial Library in Bluefield, showcase the festive atmosphere of Lemonade Days of old. In those photographs, the world famous Lemonade Lassies are seen serving lemonade to crowds in the city’s downtown with both signs promoting the campaign, and even a towering thermometer sitting at 90 degrees, situated behind the young ladies.
Dissbio is hoping to bring that thermometer back this summer, along with other vintage signage, when free lemonade is served.
“We are going to have one place that will be like a focal point, and it will have kind of like a scene,” Disibbio said. “It will have something that is like a good photo op location where we can stress the 90 degrees and the thermometer.”
Work on the new signage is underway. Disibbio said it will be unveiled to the public as soon as the mercury at the Mercer County Airport hits 90 degrees. The airport is the official reporting station for the National Weather Service, and thus is the location that is utilized for determining when there is a 90-degree day in Bluefield.
The chamber also has a team of volunteers ready to serve lemonade – both male and female. Thus you can’t necessarily call them Lemonade Lassies anymore – as the chamber did years ago.
“We have a couple of businesses that have offered volunteers to come out and serve, but also reach out to our high schools,” Disibbio said. “We have a lot of high school organizations that volunteer at times, like the Key Club and the cheerleaders.”
Ironically, after the chamber had to suspend the campaign in 2020, the mercury didn’t hit 90 in Bluefield during that pandemic-disrupted year.
In fact, the last time the thermometer at the airport hit 90 degrees was September 12 of 2019. And prior to that the last time Bluefield recorded a 90 degree reading was way back in 2013.
So will it hit 90 degrees this summer?
“Based upon the last couple of days and the strong level of humidity, I think there is a strong chance that we could see 90 degrees this summer,” Disibbio said.
At the end of the day, the whole point of the campaign is to promote Bluefield.
“Really the whole premise behind the serving of lemonade and 90 degrees is great, but you have to really focus on the aspect of attracting people to the area,” Disibbio said. “So for people who don’t like the extreme temperatures, we provide the mild climate. The idea that our weather here is much more (cooler) should be a feature that attracts people to our area.”
That milder temperatures have proven to be a selling point to residents who are considering a relocation to the area.