Photo courtesy National Cherry Festival
National Cherry Festival
On the pristine shore of the West Grand Traverse
Bay, a half million people attend activities of the eight-day
cherry festival, at harvest time in July. Michigan produces 75
percent of tart cherries grown in the United States with the Grand
Traverse region producing over half of those.
Each year the festival hosts more than 150 activities
for the entire family, including three parades, sporting events,
band competitions, big name entertainment, air shows, midway rides,
and the crowning of the queen. "Cherry activities" include cherry
tasting, cherry pie eating contests, orchard tours, the Very Cherry
Luncheon, and a cherry farm market. As one of the largest parades
in the Midwest, the Cherry Royale Parade features 150 entries. A
giant fireworks display over West Grand Traverse Bay closes the
festival. Festival proceeds have helped to fund more than 40
The National Cherry Festival began as the "Blessing
of the Blossoms" in 1926 to generate tourism for the community and
to promote the cherry industry. During that festival the Cherry
Blossom Queen was selected by drawing names from a hat. Applicants
were eligible if they were local and "photogenic." The queen and
her court attendants, also chosen by the drawing, rode in a parade
with fifty floats. Over the years, some queen's at festival time
have taken a trip to Washington, D.C., to deliver the President
with a cherry pie, sometimes as large as fifty pounds.
In 1931, a state-passed resolution made the cherry
festival a national celebration, taking its place with other
national festivals, such as Mardi Gras and the Rose Parade. An
amateur talent contest was added to events in 1936, called the
"Cherry Pickers Night." The $100 prize went to a musician who
played the harmonica, banjo and guitar. In 1939, a Dog Show and
Parade was added. Prizes went to dogs with the longest tail, the
shortest tail, the longest ears, the overall largest size, and so
on. During the war years from 1942 and 1947 the festival was
postponed, starting again in 1948.
Documentation includes a catalog providing a festival
pictorial history, with a focus on Cherry Festival Queens; a
picture book about Traverse City, the 1999 festival guide, a
calendar, and a magazine article.
Originally submitted by: Spencer Abraham, Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.