Cherry Festival Too Long For Some

Some Traverse City officials have expressed dismay about the National Cherry Festival, which is scheduled to use a popular downtown park along Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay for 17 days.

Photo: Jeff Mintline /
The Machine Shop, Flint, Mich.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports that commissioners criticized this summer’s festival as too long, too expensive for the city, and an unnecessary infringement on city parks over the Fourth of July holiday.

(The event includes Here Come The Mummies, Under The Sun Tour and Justin Moore.)

Commissioners last week approved the festival’s annual contract, but pledged to take a close look at festival operations in September.

Festival executive director Trevor Tkach said he welcomes that and said many of the commissioners’ concerns arose for the first time after months of discussion and that adjustments are made each year.

“At the end of the day, we can’t have the Cherry Festival without a good relationship with the city,” Tkach said.

Last year, Traverse City commissioners approved a limit on the number of summer festivals in the area called “Open Space.” The decision followed local debate about whether festivals were occupying the area for too long during the busy tourist season.

“I’m hearing from a lot of people in the community (that) it’s the Cherry Festival that’s too long and the length and intensity is a concern,” said Commissioner Gary Howe.

The Cherry Festival typically begins the first Saturday in July, but this year allows vendors, the midway and beer tent to open a half-day earlier for the fireworks. A portion of extra day proceeds will go to the Boom Boom Club, sponsor of the fireworks.

This year’s Cherry Festival runs eight days, from July 5 to 12. The festival’s contract with the city, however, allows workers to begin setting up on June 29 and gives them until July 15 to clean up.

Several commissioners said they wanted to curtail the festival’s length, but later said the focus will be to reduce the days allowed for setting up and tearing down.

“I hate seeing the Fourth of July always being the opening fireworks of the Cherry Festival,” said Commissioner Barbara Budros. “The Fourth of July is an important national holiday and I don’t support it being overshadowed by the National Cherry Festival.”

Budros has proposed pushing the festival back to the second or third Saturday in July.

Commissioners indicated they want to rewrite their new “Open Space” policy to bring the Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival under the same rules that limit other festivals in the city. Both events are exempt from the policy.