TRAVERSE CITY — Nancy Mickelson came to town to see her goddaughter at Interlochen Center for the Arts' graduation this weekend.
The southern Illinois native doesn’t intend to spend the whole weekend indoors.
“I’m going to shop and eat and fish and hang out there and have a good time,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson isn’t the only out-of-towner who will be in Traverse City in the next few days.
The Memorial Day holiday weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer for most Traverse City businesses, with the Bayshore Marathon, Interlochen Academy graduation and three-day weekend drawing thousands to the area.
Visitors are in for a special treat because cherry blossoms should be in bloom, about a fortnight later than usual.
The weekend will be jam-packed with tourists, said John Walter, lead ranger at the Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park.
All of the park’s 350-plus campsites had been reserved two weeks ago.
“It’s the first year we’ve ever completely filled up prior to Memorial Day weekend,” said Walter, who’s worked at the park for more than 27 years. “I don’t know if it’s a sign of a long, hard winter or if it’s just an indication of what this summer’s going to be like.”
Shop owners said they hired more staff and stocked up on goods in preparation for the summer season.
"It's the kickoff for the summer and I think we'll have lots of people around shopping," said Larz Yungbliut, the manager of Spice Merchants in downtown Traverse City. The store will offer samples of dips and blends for potato salad and other summer foods.
The cooler spring weather could contribute to more downtown traffic.
“It always seems to be busy downtown because the weather isn’t beach-ready yet,” said Colleen Paveglio, the marketing and deputy director for the Downtown Development Authority. “I expect shops to be filled, a big turnout at the farmers market, and an impact on restaurants in the evening.”
Hoteliers also report booking rates are ahead of schedule. Jonathan Pack, general manager at the Cherry Tree Inn and Suites, said tourism rates increased progressively over the years, and this year he’s seen an uptick in international visitors, as well as those from California, New York, and New Jersey.
“I’m stunned by it,” Pack said. He credited the Pure Michigan Campaign and other tourism efforts for reaching more markets.