TRAVERSE CITY — Joy Enterline clutched her pet pocket chihuahua Romeo as she and her fellow National Cherry Festival volunteers scrambled through last-minute preparations.
Romeo helps keep Enterline calm, though the fair Friday morning offered few reasons for anxiety. No Blue Angels or Fourth of July fireworks roared or soared overhead. No murmur rose from crowds of countless thousands.
“It’s very quiet,” Enterline said.
The quiet didn’t last long. By noon, a trickle of visitors turned into a torrent as crowds adorned in red, white and blue July 4 attire milled through the tents, chowed on festival food and swung and screamed from carnival rides.
Trevor Tkach, the festival’s executive director, said the Fourth of July holiday gave visitors something of a two-for-one deal as Cherry Festival organizers opened attractions a full day before the event’s official kickoff today.
“A lot of people want to celebrate the Fourth of July,” said Trevor Tkach, festival executive director. “It’s nice to be able to allow that opportunity to the public.”
Kelly Adams likes when July 4 and the start of Cherry Fest coincide. She and her children Gracie DiBenedetto, 6, and Angelo DiBenedetto, 3, got decked out in stars and stripes garb, walked to the grounds and mixed with the volunteers before the crowds.
“We wanted to get set up close enough to the water and see the fireworks and hopefully the Blue Angels,” she said.
Adams managed to beat the Cherry Festival crowds, something Ryan Volz knows a bit about. It’s his sixth year volunteering and he’s the event’s parking director, a duty that offers daily pickles when masses of motorists descend on downtown Traverse City.
“Usually for the Cherry Fest, the city projects about 400,000 visitors for the entire week,” he said. “People need to be parking at parking decks. Please do not come downtown with a vehicle; you will have a menagerie to deal with.”