TRAVERSE CITY — The Open Space may be ground zero of the National Cherry Festival, but its nerve center is a third-floor office in the Chase Bank Building.
There — surrounded by framed posters of festivals past, photographs of a smiling queen, overflowing boxes of bright-red volunteer T-shirts — the festival’s eight full-time management staff and eight interns have worked for the last six months to bring the 87th annual festival to fruition.
“They came in thinking, ‘It’s a festival, how hard could it be,’ “ said Mandy DePuy, First Impressions director for the festival. “Then, the realization hit them, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re putting on a party for 500,000 people.’ Now they are putting what they learned over the last six months to the test.”
“Set-Up Week” kept the interns hopping last week and festival week will be more of the same.
“If someone needs help, you have to move fast. You can’t sit on it,” festival executive director Trevor Tkach told them in a morning staff meeting last week.
The festival would be impossible without the help of interns and 1,500 volunteers, DePuy said. They provide an estimated 50,000 work hours a year for the cherry festival and its newest cousins, the Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival and the Leapin’ Leprechaun 5K race in mid-March, which attracted more than 800 runners this year.
All of the interns, except Samantha Winner, who attends Cincinnati State Ohio, are from Michigan and most are working for credit at their respective school — Albion College, Central Michigan University, Lake Superior State College, Michigan State University and Western Michigan University.
Three interns — Bailey Judson, Tyler Champt and Brett Knause - are from Traverse City. The others are Charelotte Kern, Bay City; Anna Maria Menchaca, Marine City; Jake Serilla, Richmond; and Jessica Roeske, Sault Ste. Marie.