TRAVERSE CITY — Annie Gerstner and Ryan Groubala sat on the edge of the Open Space as National Cherry Festival set-up workers scurried ant-like over the large swath of downtown waterfront.
Traverse City residents Gerstner and Groubala, both 15, frequent the Open Space in the summer and look forward to the festival, but they share a concern expressed by city commissioners. They’d like to see quicker set-up and tear-down times for festival construction that by Monday dominated the Open Space.
“I don’t like the way it all looks,” Gerstner said. “It sort of ruins the beauty of the lake and the area.”
Complaints by some frustrated city residents last year that festivals have overtaken the Open Space led the city’s elected officials to adopt a policy that limits the number of summer events and adds other restrictions. The National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival were exempted from those restrictions, but commissioners pledged to take a hard look at Cherry Festival operations when its officials this year said they wanted to take over the Open Space for 17 consecutive days.
And to do so, they’ll have to wade into the masses. Some commissioners who don’t typically attend many Cherry Festival activities plan said they’ll to make forays into the region’s signature event.
“I’m not a huge participant, other than what we are compelled to do because of where we live,” Commissioner Ross Richardson said of his past festival involvement. “I am planning to participate a lot this year just to observe and see how things go. I’m taking my responsibility as a city commissioner seriously.”
Commissioner Jim Carruthers, one of the festival’s harshest critics, already fled town to his family’s cottage on Old Mission Peninsula. He said he’ll visit the festival when he has meetings in town, but doesn’t expect to go out of his way to attend.