The very first mug of A&W Root Beer was served up 100 years ago — right here in Lodi.
Entrepreneur Roy Allen, who had obtained the recipe from an Arizona pharmacist, heard that Lodi would be holding a massive parade on June 20, 1919 in honor of veterans of what was then known as the Great War.
So he set up a stand on Pine Street — close to where Beauty of the Beast is today — and began giving away ice-cold mugs of root beer to thirsty parade-goers.
It was a hit. By 1922, he was in business with Frank Wright — Allen and Wright are the sources of the A&W name — and the pair soon opened up their first restaurant.
Fast forward to today.
A&W Root Beer in Lodi is still going strong. This week, the Lodi institution is celebrating that first mug of root beer poured out right here in town, 100 years ago.
Owner Pete Knight is a supporter of local history, of the A&W franchise and beyond.
His restaurant holds hundreds of pieces of memorabilia, from vintage mugs to caps and bottles. He’s collected numerous photos, clippings, books and magazine articles on A&W. He’s also done genealogical research on the company principals.
Two years ago, he managed to acquire Fiberglas statues that the restaurant chain made depicting Papa, Mama and Baby — like the popular Papa Burger, Mama Burger, Teen Burger and Baby Burger.
“They didn’t make very many sets,” he said. He had to search all over the U.S. to put together the whole set.
He also supports local interest in automotive history with weekly Cruise Nights, held every Thursday from May through October. Like the restaurant itself, the Cruise Nights are a local tradition.
To celebrate 100 years of local history, A&W Root Beer will be holding a birthday bash on Friday.
The first 500 guests will get free cupcakes, and a band will entertain until 7 p.m. There will be games including Spin to Win, bean bag toss with Rooty the Bear, and more. And at 8 p.m., the A&W Burger Family statues will be unveiled.
Special correspondent Rich Hanner contributed to this report.