TRAVERSE CITY — Twenty fewer floats will roll through downtown during the Cherry Royale Parade this weekend, and the event leading into the last day of the National Cherry Festival should be shorter overall.
“That’s the plan,” said Jeff Needham, one of the directors. “Years ago it used to be almost three hours long. Getting it down to two hours ... we’re trying to make it more powerful to our production.”
An estimated 7,000 people will line downtown Saturday to see the parade kick off at 11:15 a.m. About 3,000 people will participate in the 140-float parade. Needham said organizers approach the event as a “theatrical production” to hold spectators’ interest because they recognize it can be a long day in the sun for families.
The parade will be announced from six locations along the route instead of the usual two spots.
“So it’s not just, ‘Oh, there goes a float.’ We’re going to give a little more story behind the pieces,” Needham said.
A team of Clydesdales will ride up from Tennessee, and there’s an addition this year of “unique entertainment that might take us back in time a little bit,” said Needham, who was careful not to spoil any surprises.
“I’d love people just to set up your chairs and be down there,” he said.
Spectators accustomed to staking out a spot 12 hours in advance for Thursday’s Junior Royale Parade are encouraged hold off this year until 4 p.m. -- two and a half hours before the parade begins -- to keep Front Street open for downtown shoppers.
“Typically they start early,” said Nick Lemcool, event director. “We started putting no parking cones up and people were setting up their chairs at 5 a.m.”
About 100 floats will follow the theme, “America’s Moments in History.”
“We have things like the moon landing, the discovery of America,Star Spangled Banner, the California Gold Rush,” Lemcool said. “It’s very kid-oriented.”
Twenty-seven elementary school floats carrying princes and princesses have been in the works since May. Kids who want to ride their bikes in the parade can sign up at F&M Park today at 4:45 p.m.
“It’s an event to bring the community together,” Lemcool said.
Organizers selected Dynamite the Clown to be grand marshal of the junior parade.
Saturday will be Winnipeg Jets defenseman and Traverse City native Zach Redmond’s first time at the Cherry Royale Parade as grand marshal -- and first time at the parade in general. He’s attended many cherry festivals, he said, but just hasn’t made it to the parade. He passed up a wedding invitation to be part of the excitement Saturday.
“It’s certainly a great honor, and it’s kind of a hard thing to turn down,” Redmond said.