TRAVERSE CITY — The 87th National Cherry Festival kicked off to a sweet start with cool weather, great food and a multitude of events and attractions.
Thousands of visitors and local residents descended on Traverse City on Saturday for the first full day of the nine-day festival. Cherry Festival officially opened with a classic car cruise Friday night.
Saturday’s festivities started at the Open Space with the popular Cherry Pancake Breakfast. Lines were long as volunteers served up pancakes, sausage, coffee, milk and juice. Festival first-timer Parker Hoye’s reaction to his first bite of pancakes suggested the food was worth the wait.
“This cherry sauce is amazing,” said Hoye, an Iowa State University student. “I’m going to buy some of this stuff.”
Hoye came up to the festival for the day with coworkers from Midland, where they are working at Dow Chemical Company this summer. The group said they’d be happy as long as they had plenty of cherries before they returned, something there was no shortage of at the nearby festival marketplace.
But Cherry Festival isn’t just about the sweet and tart fruit.
Some of the youngest Cherry Fest participants began their day at the Kids’ Big Wheel Race at the Grand Traverse Mall parking lot south of downtown. Dozens of racers boarded their big wheel and lined-up in heats for a straight-shot race across a portion of the parking lot pavement. Heat winners went on to the race finals, and all riders won ribbons and prizes.
J.R. Wildfong, 5, of Mancelona, competed in one of the first heats.
Wildfong, a first-time racer, said he went “as fast as a rocket.”
“Really fast, because I’ve got cheetah power, and horse power,” he said while pointing to his big wheel.