skip navigation and jump to page content The Library of CongressThe American Folklife Center 
Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
Collage of Local Legacies
Scene from Cherry Festival with clowns and kids
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 non-profit organizations.

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.

link to www.loc.govMore Local Legacies...

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.

disclaimer for external linksLearn More About It...
  The Library of Congress 
The American Folklife Center
Contact Us
AFC Icon