Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 7, 2013

How much do festival visitors spend?

TRAVERSE CITY – Welcome to The National Cherry Festival!

Now go spend money.

OK, that’s a little blunt. But organizers estimate more than 500,000 folks visited the festival during its eight-day run. A primary question: how much money did they leave behind?

Some like Joe Miley of Mount Pleasant empty little from their pocket. He rode up on his gas-sipping motorcycle and stayed and dined with his adult daughter, a local college student. He ate out, just once, at Hooter’s. He planned to spend a total of $100 on his two-day visit, and that includes about $20 for amusement park ride tickets for his toddler granddaughter.

“I’m trying to save money,” he confessed as he waited for the Midway to open Friday morning.

Chen Huang, on the other hand, drove up with her two young children, along with four other families from Chicago. She thinks she’ll spend $1,000 in the Traverse area during their four-day visit.

Officials at the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau admit the money question is an incredibly complex one. It would take a study specific to the festival to answer it, said spokesman Mike Norton.

The last study commissioned by the bureau estimated in 2005 that the average out-of-town visitor to Traverse City spent about $140 a day, with 28 percent of that going toward a motel or hotel room.

That figure is out-of-date and it doesn't address event-specific vagaries, such as how many folks visit for what reason and where they stay — with family/friends or at hotels, Norton said.

Interviews on the street reflected the complexity, but it seemed most had a tight grip on their wallets. Maybe that's not hugely surprising, given that the festival promotes 85 percent of its activities and events as free.

Amy and Simon Kennedy, who came here on their power boat from Charlevoix, stocked a cooler ahead of time, hitting the grocery store as needed.

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