TRAVERSE CITY — Hundreds of thousands of people descended on Traverse City for National Cherry Festival and more than a few visitors picked up unwanted, bright yellow souvenirs along the way.
The city’s Downtown Development Authority issued 651 tickets between June 29 and July 6, the vast majority of which — more than 475 — were for parking meter violations. Fines from the tickets totaled roughly $8,300.
Dave Malewitz, the DDA’s parking administrator, said the numbers were similar to average weekly parking ticket and fine totals.
“It’s not very much higher than what we expect on any given week,” he said.
For example, the DDA cited 509 parking violations in the first week of June. Of those citations, 418 were for meter violations. Parking fines totaled $6,820 during that week.
The number of vehicles towed from downtown during Cherry Fest showed a much greater variation. Grand Traverse Central Dispatch received reports of 66 towed vehicles over the course of the festival.
That figure decreased to only 13 towed vehicles between July 7 and July 19.
Greg Nienhouse, owner of Brickyard Towing, said Cherry Fest is the biggest week of the year for his business.
“People think they can just park on the grass, in front of hydrants, in front of crosswalks,” he said. “It’s incredible what people think they can get away with.”
Nienhouse added most Cherry Festival tows aren’t from parking violations, but from service calls for stalled cars, dead batteries or keys locked inside vehicles.
“We’re more in the business of helping to get people going,” Neinhouse said.
Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes said he has little sympathy for meter violators, but he said it’s no secret downtown needs more parking.
“This has been a constant issue with Traverse City,” he said. “We understand we have parking problems when we have huge crowds in town.”
Estes said city officials are working on selecting a site for a new parking deck and finding funds for construction.