The decision by the National Cherry Festival to chop two days from its 17-day schedule this year was good for the festival, the city and residents who want more control over how the festival fits into the city’s future.
If we’re smart about this, the decision could be a first step in an in-depth discussion about the future of the Cherry Festival, including how the Fourth of July is celebrated, how the cherry industry fits into the larger picture and how big is too big.
Festival leadership last week showed its political savvy by acknowledging that more than a few people were not pleased that in the same year the city established tough new restrictions on the use of the Open Space the Cherry Festival announced its longest-ever schedule.
City residents who have been chafing at the number of days the Open Space was taken up by festival goings-on got a little relief. Not a lot, perhaps, but it counts. Having one more day of relative peace before the Cherry Festival’s thousands descend on the city is welcome.
Dropping set-up and tear-down days from the schedule won’t hurt area merchants for whom the festival is the start of the profit season. Many of them depend on the festival to draw shoppers and to make their year. The money they make in the summer is what keeps many stores and restaurants going for the balance of the year. It’s a crucial time for them.
The decision to lose those two days can signal a much-needed period of detente between residents, city leaders, festival officials and promoters. Shortly after last year’s Bayside Festival riled neighbors because of noise, we had the “festival fatigue” debate and things got testy.
This month city commissioners made clear they expect major changes and a reduced festival schedule for next year.