Kool-Aid's Sweet Nebraska Origin Story
The birthplace of Kool-Aid has long been a subject of debate, with Hendley and Hastings, Nebraska each vying for the title. To put this debate to rest, let's acknowledge that the early days of Kool-Aid began in the heart of Nebraska. Let's take a nostalgic journey through Kool-Aid's early days and explore how this iconic drink is celebrated today.
Hailing from Hendley, Nebraska, near McCook, chemist Edwin Perkins introduced Kool-Aid in 1927, a revolutionary powdered drink mix that transformed how people quenched their thirst. Drawing inspiration from his method of extracting liquid from fruit juice, Perkins developed a concentrated powder. Originally named "Fruit Smack," Perkins saw its potential, leading to Kool-Aid (also called Kool-Ade at one point but changed for FDA reasons). This shift not only highlighted the drink's refreshing qualities but also marked the beginning of a cultural phenomenon.
As Kool-Aid gained popularity, a headquarters was established in Hastings, that building is now a city landmark. Eventually, the company outgrew Hastings and relocated to another state, later being sold to a different company. However, Kool-Aid will forever be intertwined with Nebraska's narrative.
The original Kool-Aid factory building stands in downtown Hastings, just around the corner from First Street Brewing Company. While the building cannot be toured, visitors will encounter a colorful exterior befitting Kool-Aid and discover fun facts about the sweet drink. Nearby establishments include What the Dickens British Pastry, Back Alley Bakery & Café and The Odyssey.
For those curious about more of Kool-Aid's history, the Hastings Museum offers "Kool-Aid: Discover the Dream," a permanent exhibit featuring Kool-Aid artifacts. Kids can enjoy a hands-on Kool-Aid stand, the Kool-Aid Mans Hollywood footprints and, since 2023, a captivating Kool-Aid Man statue proudly stands at the entrance, creating an Instagram-worthy moment. Delve further into Kool-Aid exhibits and artifacts at the Museum of the High Plains in McCook and the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln.
Step back in time with the annual Kool-Aid Days festival, a vibrant celebration that pays homage to the enduring legacy of this beloved sweet drink. Held every August in Hastings, this festival unites locals and visitors in commemorating the town's pivotal role in Kool-Aid's history.
Immerse yourself in the festivities with a lively parade, explore the World’s Largest Kool-Aid Stand, test your skills in the Kwickest Kool-Aid Drinking Contest, and experience the thrill of the Kool-Aid Kardboard Boat Races, among other captivating events. Kool-Aid Days is more than just a festival; it's a unique celebration that transports you to the spirit of the 1920s when the drink began.
Another quirky fact about Hastings? It’s the home of Nebraska Bigfoot Crossroads of America & Research Center, a museum dedicated to Bigfoot. Ever heard how rumors start? Well, word has it Nebraska Bigfoot is a Kool-Aid fanatic, often spotted loading up on a colorful assortment at the grocery store. Everyone seems to love Nebraska's official soft drink.