TRAVERSE CITY — National Cherry Festival officials expect to score this year’s festival a financial success.
Trevor Tkach, the festival’s executive director, said revenue exceeded the $1.76 million taken in at the 2012 festival and should fall right around their budget expectations of $1.82 million.
Tkach, in his second year at the helm, believes the 2013 festival will finish in the black, but said he’s wary about making a prediction before the numbers are finalized.
“We are still sorting everything out, but the weather cooperated and we seemed to have more attendance to the paid events,” Tkach said. “The response I’m getting from most is that it was a very good festival.”
Festival officials don’t expect to have final numbers until September. Tkach said the festival’s board wants to build up their fund balance, or a literal rainy day fund.
Rain, scorching heat, a poor economy, or high gas prices all can have a negative impact on the festival’s fragile financial model, but this year Tkach said overall attendance appeared to be up.
Larger crowds don’t please everyone, though.
“I’m hearing more people who say they have always been a Cherry Festival supporter but it’s getting too big,” said Traverse City Commissioner Jim Carruthers. “I agree. It’s getting too big for its britches. It’s not about cherries anymore, it’s all corporate.”
Philip Korson, executive director of the cherry industry’s promotional arm, the Cherry Marketing Institute, said he has no complaints about the festival.
“The festival and the team in place today bend over backwards to incorporate us and the cherry industry into their events,” Korson said.
Festival officials are still evaluating this year’s events and Tkach cited several successes. He declined to name the events he said need improvement.
This year’s switch to a night air show was a success, he said, and noted it’s the first time he’s been to an air show that prompted cheers from those lined along the beach. Musical acts often have been a money-loser for the festival, but are becoming more financially sustainable, he said.
The first three shows headlined by Styx, Montgomery Gentry, and Foreigner set the tone for the rest of the week, Tkach said. The crowd for Foreigner ballooned to such an extent that festival officials eventually cut off ticket sales.
Tkach wouldn’t offer predictions for 2014 events, but said the festival intends to focus on introducing more active-living, race-type events to its existing foot-race menu.
“This is a pretty unique place in Michigan because you can do a lot of outdoor activities and water activities,” Tkach said. “Active-living is also aligning with what the cherry industry is saying about cherries, the Super Fruit.”