Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 6, 2013

Festival returns lost child to mother in no time flat

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Two minutes can be a lifetime for a parent who lost track of their child.

That’s how long it took National Cherry Festival volunteers on June 30 to reunite a mother with her son. The child wasn’t overly concerned at least not to the extent expressed by others.

“He said, ‘My mom knows where I am. I want to see the magician,’” said Russ Riker, the festival’s assistant communications director.

Thus far, the boy who wanted to see the magician is this year’s sole reported missing child. Riker said there usually are two or three missing child or missing parent cases every year, a near guarantee when 500,000 people converge on one spot over a week’s time.

Executive Director Trevor Tkach said the festival developed procedures to make sure parents and children are always reunited.

“From an emotional standpoint, as a parent you feel a sinking feeling in your stomach,” he said.

Riker said this year’s missing child report started a standard 7-minute countdown to clear radio traffic, send out descriptions of the child and have volunteers fan out for a search.

“On the occasion it goes longer than 7 minutes, we have a police radio with us,” he said. “We’re all amateur radio operators and we contact the 911 dispatch center and inform them we have a lost child. Once the call goes out, everyone kicks in and starts searching.”

Riker said once a missing child is located they’re taken to the festival’s welcome center so the parents’ identities can be verified.

Tkach said parents or people who find lost children should first go to the festival’s welcome center or find a festival volunteer with a radio. He said the festival has reunited 100 percent of lost children or parents.

“Seeing the reuniting of parent with children is a really satisfying experience,” he said.