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Cherry pie dream: two brothers aim to bring Guinness World Record back to Traverse City

Courtesy of Garret and Dakota Porter
Brothers Dakota and Garret Porter, third and fourth from left, gather with the team that’s helping them organize an effort to bake a world record cherry pie in Traverse City. They are posed in front of the city's original world record pie tin on Cass Road. The others are, from left, Zach Endres, Sawyer Bak and Allie Graziano.

Over 30 years ago, Traverse City lost the Guinness World Records’ Largest Cherry Pie title. Two brothers hope to bring it back to the city. It won’t be easy. Nonetheless, Dakota and Garret Porter believe they have what it takes to make it happen.

They started a company when they were teenagers that sells LED lighting fixtures for snowboards and other athletic gear. In order to do that at ages 13 and 16, they had to look to their community for help.

“Being kids, we didn't know a whole lot, right? I mean, we were starting a company from the ground up, and we were still in school,” Dakota Porter said. “And so we gained a lot of mentors … and just really had the community help us and guide us in the right direction.”

The business, Action Glow, has been a success, and ten years later, they want to tap into their community again for help baking a really big pie.

They became curious last year when they wondered why both Traverse City and Charlevoix have giant pie tins on display at their city limits. That’s when they learned Traverse City had lost the record for world’s biggest pie.

“At first we became furious, but then quickly our anger changed to determination,” Garret Porter said. “We set out to bring this title back to Traverse City once and for all.”

Charlevoix was the first to win the world record in 1976. It started when Dave Phillips, owner of Charlevoix’s Grey Gables Inn, wanted to do something to celebrate the bicentennial. An employee suggested a world record and Phillips liked the idea. He figured since George Washington loved cherries, why not bake an enormous cherry pie?

Phillips commissioned an oversized pie tin and the construction of a brick oven. Then he assembled the massive amount of ingredients for the pie.

On the day of the event, Phillips sprinkled sugar over the pie from a helicopter just before it was baked. The record was international news and prompted a letter of congratulations from President Gerald Ford.

Later, a Traverse City man named Bob Underwood became upset the record was not in Traverse City, the Cherry Capital of the World. He put together an attempt of his own and took away the title from Charlevoix in 1987 with a pie event at the Open Space.

Just three years later, though, a little town in Canada — Oliver, British Columbia — swooped in and took away the record. Oliver’s pie weighed over 37,721 pounds, smashing the Traverse City record pie, which was just 27,000 pounds.

For years, it was thought to be too expensive to attempt to take the record back. But the Porter brothers believe they can beat the Oliver record – even if they get strange reactions from people when they tell them their plan.

“At first, it's laughs. That's for sure. Everyone's like, ‘Oh, that's funny, you're gonna make a pie.’ But once we start explaining the details, you can tell that they start getting a little overwhelmed,” Dakota Porter said. “I mean, there is a lot of things that need to fall into place perfectly to make this happen.”

Garret Porter said the brothers have been busy since the beginning of the year working on logistics: lining up pie tin fabrication, transportation, cherry supply and working on getting government approvals. They’ve also been in touch with Guinness representatives and have learned the strict parameters they need to follow to qualify for a world record.

The Porters want to deter would-be record usurpers. So they hope to bake a pie that weighs 50,000 pounds. They have tentative approval from Traverse City officials to hold their world record attempt on the first Saturday in August at the Open Space. City Clerk Benjamin Marentette said he is waiting for an application from the brothers, including their specific plans. Then the city will make a final decision.

Some people think there’s no way Traverse City can get the record back. Dakota Porter said that doesn’t bother them.

“We do get a lot of skepticism,” he said, “but it's nothing that we're not used to, and we're always up for the challenge to prove those people wrong.”

If they pull it off, it would be a huge event for Traverse City. They hope to serve 40,000 people cherry pie in one day.

Patrick Sullivan is a freelance reporter based in northern Michigan.