TRAVERSE CITY — Stan Burke has peddled gyros at the National Cherry Festival for 30 years, so he's learned to take occasional rain, cold and lack of customers in stride.
What started out as a mild, cloudy Tuesday quickly turned cool and blustery as a cold front swept into town around 11 a.m. Temperatures along the waterfront dipped to the 50s and a strong breeze briefly pushed the light rain into a near-horizontal path.
People slowly started to seep into the festival grounds around noon, after the initial blast passed.
"Weather is everything down here," said Burke, of U&I Lounge in Traverse City. "Too hot, they don't come down. Too cold and wet, they don't come down. We had perfect weather over the weekend, and now this.
"But it always seems to even out over the week," he said.
Trevor Tkach, Cherry Festival executive director, said even the slightest rain shower tends to send folks scurrying to their cars. But the festival thus far this year dodged what forecasters believed could be a rather wet spell.
"We call it the TC split; the clouds seem to reach Traverse City and split around us," Tkach said.
Rain means a real financial loss for the festival and its vendors, but how big a hit depends on the timing. Rain during peak times such as an evening concert or a Blue Angels air show is a bigger negative event than if the heavens open during a slower time.
"Potentially, you can lose thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars," Tkach said.
Attendance was sparse at festival events early Tuesday but those who showed up found a silver lining in the storm clouds.
"We came all the way from Chicago and it beats staying in the hotel room," said Melissa DeLuca, a first-time festival attendee who visited with her children and parents. She's hoping for some sun before they leave Friday, but said on the bright side there was plenty of parking and no lines for midway rides.