Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 24, 2014

Editorial: Cherries take a back seat at their namesake festival

It’s called the National Cherry Festival and it’s supposed to be about cherries and the cherry industry.

But some of the festival’s business partners — many of them smaller operations that focus on all kinds of locally made cherry products — are beginning to wonder where they fit into the larger picture.

The Cherry Festival just announced another round of fee hikes for vendors who sell cherry-related items (and all kinds of other offerings) and some are wincing.

Farm market vendors who sell exclusively cherry products will pay $2,000 for a booth at this year’s festival, an increase of almost 54 percent over 2013. Those selling non-cherry products will pay $3,000, 50 more than last year.

They aren’t the only ones paying more. Rates for vendors in the food court and beer tent also went up, but not as much. Corporate promotional partners’ rates are negotiated individually, but most of those also increased.

The reason for the latest round of hikes, according to Cherry Festival Executive Director Trevor Tkach, is to cover the cost of bigger entertainment acts, which are presented free to festival goers.

Tkach said bigger crowds drawn by those bigger-name acts should increase vendors’ profits and offset price increases.

That’s the theory. But theory doesn’t pay the bills.

Naturally Nutty owner Katie Kearney, who sells nut butters at the Cherry Festival’s farm market, saw a 50 percent hike in her fee.

“I was frustrated,” she said. “I feel like it makes it more difficult for a small local business to be able to afford a local festival.”

Six Lugs manager Daniel Umulis said the price increase will be too much for small local companies trying to break into the market.

Umulis paid $4,000 for two booths for his cherry dressings and preserves. Umulis said he can stomach the price increase unless bad weather hits.

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