Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

July 10, 2014

Cherry Festival draws fans from far-away lands

TRAVERSE CITY — Uddhav and Bhagwati Thapa think a bash like the National Cherry Festival would fit in well back home.

Of course, home for them is Nepal, a small country in southeast Asia roughly 7,000 miles from Traverse City.

The husband and wife arrived in Traverse City by way of Ann Arbor, where their niece Sisika Upreti lives. Upreti said she wanted to show her family members 'up north' so they headed to the Cherry Festival.

"Nice people, nice organization, nice festival," Uddhav Thapa said. "It's a different thing for us and very nice."

A world map hangs outside the festival's welcome tent, not far from where the Thapas lounged on Wednesday afternoon.

Festival-goers can mark their homes on the map with a pin. Hundreds of pins poked out of dozens of countries scattered around the globe.

The pins jut from countries ranging from Greenland in the north to New Zealand in the south and everywhere in between -- testaments to the distances traveled by some of the festival's international attendees. Angola, Uruguay, Kazakhstan and India all have their own pins, and they all make one thing clear: Cherry Festival has become more than just a national event.

"There is every continent represented," Patty Janes, a market researcher volunteering with the festival, said as she studied the map. "The world exposure, to me, it just gives you goosebumps."

Janes is an associate professor with Grand Valley State University. This year she started searching for patterns and trends about who is traveling to the Cherry Festival, from where and why.

Janes said many international festival-goers come to Traverse City specifically for the Cherry Festival.

The trip is relatively short trip for some, like the Sauer family, of London, Ontario.

Frank Sauer first learned about the festival while visiting Traverse City last year. He and his daughter Nicole returned with Nicole's son Xavier this summer to see what the festival fuss is about.

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