It's that time of year when Traverse City throws open its doors to tens of thousands of its closest friends to help celebrate cherries and the delightful combination of hills, water, oil, topography and weather that make this one of the top cherry-growing areas on the continent.
The heat wave that turned most of us to mush over the past few days is supposed to break today; rain early in the day is supposed to make way for picture-perfect weather over the next week or so with sun and highs in the upper 70s.
When Joni Mitchell wrote "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone," who knew she was writing about cherries?
Just about everybody in northern Michigan — and probably a lot of visitors in town for the National Cherry Festival, by now — knows that the 2012 cherry crop was essentially wiped out by the bizarre weather we've had in the past five months. Temperatures soared into the 80s in March, the cherry trees were fooled into thinking it was spring and pushed out their blossoms, only to have them devastated by a long series of late frosts.
This is hardly the first time the crop has been ravaged by late freezes, but farmers took a particularly hard hit this year. Many farms lost up to 80 percent of their sweet cherry crop and 95 percent of the tarts.
And this is hardly the first time we've gone into the Cherry Festival with little or no local fruit. In fact, it's a well-known local secret that in most years, the festival is held before the harvest, so cherries from downstate or the west coast are shipped in. Downstate media "discovers" that fact every few years and it becomes a big story for a news cycle or two.
While there were still jets thundering over Grand Traverse Bay over the weekend, they were not the familiar blue and yellow F/A-18 Hornets of the U.S. Navy's famed Blue Angels aerobatics team. The Blue Angels have been performing every other year at the National Cherry Festival for about two decades now, and this was scheduled to be a Blue Angels year, but they are instead performing in Baltimore as part of celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, which brought us the Star Spangled Banner, which eventually became our national anthem.
Cherry Festival officials say the Navy fliers are due to return to the every-other-year format and be back in Traverse City in 2014, but they also warned there are no guarantees they'll be available.
One tradition that isn't on hiatus this year is the closing fireworks, scheduled for dusk on Saturday the 14th over West Bay. The show will be hard-pressed to match the July 4 display, which some folks said was as good as they've seen here.
So stay cool, eat some cherries, take a dip in the bay, enjoy your stay.