Today kicks off the 15th annual Traverse City Film Festival. Though not as long in the tooth as the National Cherry Festival (which is almost 100 years old), Film Fest has woven itself into the fabric of summer events we plan for, and count on.

We’re lucky to have it.

We revel in the pleasure of pulling up a lawn chair next to hundreds of our neighbors at the Open Space, to laugh, cry, ooh, ahh and enjoy the supreme pleasures of community film-going, lit by stars and sunset, lifted by Grand Traverse Bay breezes.

We ever-so-Midwestern-nicely enjoy spotting celebrities — from a tasteful distance, of course. This year, we could see Lily Tomlin, Kathy Griffith ... and the festival also tends to bring our local celebrity residents out in the spotlight, including Michael Moore, Film Fest’s president, programmer and co-founder.

We love the free stuff, the downtown party vibe, the inclusion of kids and student-movies, the panel discussions.

But mostly we like that the world comes to us. Films from around the world expose us to places and viewpoints we may not be familiar with, to viewpoints we may or may not agree with, to ideas that hail from worlds away from our northern Michigan shore.

This year, more than a dozen filmmakers will accompany their films to our community — and we welcome them, along with all the other visitors we’ll get this week.

(New visitors, please note that Eighth Street is closed and give yourself about 30 extra minutes to cross town. You may also want to make sure you throw extra water and a sleeping bag in the trunk, just in case.)

Behind the curtain, there are locals at work.

It takes a tremendous effort to put on the festival, which — like the National Cherry Festival — is largely reliant on volunteer steam to keep the engine running.

Local business sponsors and donations, community-sold memberships and year-round ticket/concession sales also play an important role in keeping the festival going, every after year.

Without further ado, on with the show.