TRAVERSE CITY — The National Cherry Festival likely will expand from eight to nine days this summer to accommodate the July 4 holiday.
A committee of three city commissioners gave preliminary approval this week to a proposed contract that will allow the midway and all vendors and the beer tent to open a day early on July 4, a Friday.
Cherry Festival events — from concerts to cherry pit-spitting contests — won’t begin until July 5, the normal opening day.
Commissioners acknowledged they’ve spent months devising limits for other festival events at the Open Space in response to citizen complaints about festival fatigue. But they agreed with Cherry Festival officials it didn’t make sense to be closed for the holiday and the planned fireworks celebration.
“It would be poor form to invite all of these people downtown to the fireworks and not have anything open,” said Trevor Tkach, Cherry Festival executive director. “At that point it just takes a turn of the key.”
Tkach said the festival will donate a significant amount of the fees collected from vendors for the extra day to the nonprofit Boom Boom Club that sponsors the fireworks display.
The extra cash may help light up the sky, but those who want to spark a cigarette during the festival will have to leave the Open Space to legally do so. Commissioners denied festival officials’ request for a variance to the city’s no-smoking ordinance to establish three designated smoking areas in the Open Space.
“We have been heading in that direction for a long time,” Tkach said of eliminating the smoking areas. “It’s a tough one to enforce, but we will do our best.”
Commissioners also agreed to continue a $45,000 cap on the festival’s reimbursement to the city for out-of-pocket costs. Cherry Festival officials kept expenses to $38,200 in 2013, but exceeded the cap in 2012 by over $2,100. Commissioner Ross Richardson said he expects the festival to exceed the cap this year, thanks to the extra day and inclusion of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels in the air show.
The Blue Angels historically draw the annual festival’s largest crowds.
Commissioner Jeanine Easterday said the cap hasn’t been increased since about 2007 and it’s appropriate to take another look, though not for this year’s festival.
“Those are all concerns that we will address moving forward but this is not a festival you can change midstream,” Easterday said. “Their budget is already set.”
Easterday, who chaired the committee of three commissioners, said she is confident the full commission will approve the recommended contract when it comes before them.