TRAVERSE CITY — Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate when planning a festival two years away.
Consequently, the cherries at this year’s National Cherry Festival will hail from elsewhere.
“If you’re having a sweet cherry earlier in the week it will be from Washington State. Around Tuesday we are hoping for cherries from down by Grand Rapids,” said Kat Paye, executive director of the National Cherry Festival.
Paye said despite the weather the cherry harvest is still expected to be good this year, though not coinciding with Cherry Fest.
“Obviously it is difficult for a festival to be planned around mother nature and agriculture,” she said.
Still, this year’s festival features 120 cherry products, from cherry jerky to cherry ice cream.
“There’s lot’s to taste, anything with cherry in it, they’ve done it,” Paye said.
This is the 93rd year of the event, said Trevor Tkach, president and CEO of Traverse City Tourism.
Tkach said the event is a major boon for local business as approximately 500,000 guests bring about $25 million dollars into the economy.
“Everybody experiences it in a different way,” Tkach said. “Some immediately ... like the cherry producers, vendors, and restaurants, but everyone else feels it too, as money is spent all throughout the community.”
Cherries are the focal point, and while the fresh sweets will be imports, the tart cherry’s role in the local, and national, economy is also worth celebrating.
Traverse City produces a whopping 70 percent of the nation’s tart cherries, Paye said.
Because tart cherry products generally use dried or preserved cherries, they will still be local and grown in Traverse City.
But there’s more than cherries involved in the large-scale effort.
Paye recommended the family fun — and the French fries.
“There are really good fries,” she said.
Cherry Fest features 150 events, including classic events like the air show, pit spitting contest and three parades, plus a number of new ones.
“We have a NASA exhibit, a butterfly experience ... we have so many events, there’s something for everyone,” Paye said.
Cherry Fest takes place June 29 through July 6.