TRAVERSE CITY — An eight-day storm called the National Cherry Festival is blowing through Traverse City, propelled by 500,000 people, and Ray Klepper is happy to confront it head-on.
Every year the Union Street resident and his wife host the “Klepper Clapper Club” at their home, where boisterous attendees use wood blocks to cheer on weary, tail-end Cherry Royale Parade participants.
“We get into it,” Klepper said.
Other Traverse City residents tend to batten down the hatches and just try to survive the crowds, noise, parking problems and traffic jams. Elizabeth Whelan, president of the Boardman Neighborhood Association, is among the fest-weary.
"The joke is, if you lived here for a while you try to leave town if possible,” she said. “I think if you live here you realize it’s something you have to live with. No, it’s not anything I’m thrilled with.”
The Cherry Festival can wreak havoc on downtown traffic flow. Traverse City Police Capt. Brian Heffner said North Union Street will be closed throughout Cherry Festival and both Front and Union streets will be closed for parades on July 4 and 6. Officers will be on hand to direct vehicle and foot traffic, but some residents say out-of-towners unfamiliar with the city’s one-way streets and normal traffic flow cause problems aplenty.
Peninsula Township Supervisor Rob Manigold said even Old Mission Peninsula residents expect slower, tourist-infused traffic. Veteran area residents know how to plan accordingly.
"If you live up here, plan on driving about 35 mph into town,” he said. “Just be careful. People will stop in front of you. They’ll slow down because they see something on the side of the road or in the water.”
Rob Bacigalupi, Traverse City’s acting Downtown Development Authority director, said residents should consider alternative transportation options like walking, biking or carpooling. He said downtown bike racks can accommodate 240 bicycles.