TRAVERSE CITY — Lauren Vaughn’s crews had the beach surrounding the Open Space almost to themselves two days in a row, a rare scene during the National Cherry Festival.
That’s because the Traverse City Parks and Recreation superintendent’s crew members were on the sand Saturday and Sunday at 5 a.m. while Traverse City natives and tourists alike rested up from a holiday weekend packed with festivities.
City crews arrived bright and early to clean the beaches after Fourth of July fireworks and a U.S. Navy Blue Angels performance.
“That’s when we have the worst trash ... after fireworks,” Vaughn said.
Crew members emptied trash cans and picked up garbage and debris while one employee drove back and forth on the beach cleaner, a machine that digs down about four inches and runs a screen through the sand to catch debris.
“When there’s not a festival we do it about once a week,” Vaughn said. “When there’s events like air shows and fireworks we have to do it in the morning after those events.”
Grand Traverse County Emergency Management Coordinator Gregg Bird estimated more than a half-million people descended on downtown Traverse City for July 4 celebrations and the National Cherry Festival’s opening weekend.
National Cherry Festival Executive Director Trevor Tkach said daily cleanup is a partnership between festival volunteers, the city of Traverse City and Bay Area Recycling for Charities.
“Unfortunately, people leave trash on the beach. They do it every day,” Tkach said. “We did our best to get out there and get it cleaned up quickly and have things ready for the net day.”
Jessica Schlimme, volunteer and corporate membership manager for the Cherry Festival, said she expected an influx in crowds and planned accordingly. She recruited more volunteers for clean-up duty during opening weekend, and it paid off.