NORTH PROVIDENCE — Well, at least the local soda pop election had a clear winner.
This year, the family-run Yacht Club Bottling Works presented its limited-run candidates for 2020: Donald’s Big League Punch, Joe’s Berry-Blue Lemonade, or for independents, and the independent Berrymelon Rebellion. Customers could “vote” by purchasing their favorite flavors.
And, more than 40,000 soda sales later, the decision was a “landslide."
People went for President Donald J. Trump’s punch over Democrat Joe Biden’s lemonade, 54 percent to 33 percent, with another 11 percent holding out for Rebellion.
Why the Trump punch? Yacht Club owner John Sgambato said he couldn’t explain the highly unofficial results. He personally preferred the “cool notes” of the blue Biden lemonade.
Maybe it’s that North Providence is on the edge of Rhode Island’s “Trump Country,” the middle and western part of the state that went for Trump in 2016 and 2020.
Yacht Club also ships to distributors in California and the Midwest, where the election soda pop was a hit and the Trump punch in particular was in big demand.
Is it the flavor, with sunny, tropical notes? Is it that a blue state likes red soda? Is it just that people wanted some memorabilia of a strange time in America?
“No one’s ever going to forget it,” Sgambato said. “Maybe they just want to have that piece of history. He’s not the average candidate for president, or as president.”
Sgambato came up with the idea for a political soda poll while watching the 2016 presidential debates between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. “Trump was so loud and boisterous, and I thought people will go crazy for it. And, everyone knows Hillary,” Sgambato said. “We wanted to have fun with it and not be political. That was our goal, because nothing has been easy between the two sides."
“You can cover up the label if you just like the flavor,” he added.
The company reached out to Rhode Island artist Frankie Galasso to design the labels, and then launched the political sodas at their company store, local stores, restaurants, and farmers markets, and with their distributors. The 2016 poll was close between Trump’s Populists Punch and Hillary’s Liberal Limeade, but ultimately Trump won with 46.3 percent of the vote.
Presidential candidates come and go, but rebellion is part of the American culture. Sgambato said the company will probably continue making the Rebellion soda, with its homage to the Rhode Islanders who burned the schooner HMS Gaspee in 1772 leading up to the American Revolution.
Yacht Club will sell the rest all of the political soda it has on hand, and then will continue to make the soda that corresponds to the winner of the actual election through Inauguration Day 2021.
“That’s our tradition — to celebrate who won,” Sgambato said.
Whenever we know who that may be.