TRAVERSE CITY — Twenty fewer floats will roll through downtown during the Cherry Royale Parade this weekend, and the event leading into the last day of the National Cherry Festival should be shorter overall.
“That’s the plan,” said Jeff Needham, one of the directors. “Years ago it used to be almost three hours long. Getting it down to two hours ... we’re trying to make it more powerful to our production.”
An estimated 7,000 people will line downtown Saturday to see the parade kick off at 11:15 a.m. About 3,000 people will participate in the 140-float parade. Needham said organizers approach the event as a “theatrical production” to hold spectators’ interest because they recognize it can be a long day in the sun for families.
The parade will be announced from six locations along the route instead of the usual two spots.
“So it’s not just, ‘Oh, there goes a float.’ We’re going to give a little more story behind the pieces,” Needham said.
A team of Clydesdales will ride up from Tennessee, and there’s an addition this year of “unique entertainment that might take us back in time a little bit,” said Needham, who was careful not to spoil any surprises.
“I’d love people just to set up your chairs and be down there,” he said.
Spectators accustomed to staking out a spot 12 hours in advance for Thursday’s Junior Royale Parade are encouraged hold off this year until 4 p.m. -- two and a half hours before the parade begins -- to keep Front Street open for downtown shoppers.
“Typically they start early,” said Nick Lemcool, event director. “We started putting no parking cones up and people were setting up their chairs at 5 a.m.”
About 100 floats will follow the theme, “America’s Moments in History.”
“We have things like the moon landing, the discovery of America,Star Spangled Banner, the California Gold Rush,” Lemcool said. “It’s very kid-oriented.”