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Local officials in the dark about President Biden’s trip to Traverse City

President Joe Biden poses for his official portrait Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in the Library of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
Adam Schultz
President Joe Biden poses for his official portrait Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in the Library of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

President Joe Biden will be in Traverse City on Saturday, but little else is known about the visit, local officials say Thursday afternoon.

The White House has confirmed President Joe Biden and Governor Gretchen Whitmer will be in town as part of his administration’s “America’s Back Together” tour to celebrate the country’s progress against the virus.

His trip corresponds with the city’s annual Cherry Festival, returning for the first time after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic. It is the first time a sitting U.S. president will have visited Traverse City during the July 4th week festival since President Gerald Ford attended in 1975.

But the White House is being especially quiet about the President’s plans. Local officials say they don’t have any information about where he will be. They say they knew more when other political officials campaigned in Traverse City last year, including Donald Trump Jr, First Lady Jill Biden and President Donald Trump.

Traverse City’s clerk, police department and the Grand Traverse County Sheriff Department say they don’t know what roads will be closed, whether the public will have ability to see the President or if he will be at the Cherry Fest.

Traverse City Police Chief Jeffrey O’Brien says the Secret Service is coordinating security. He says his officers and the Sheriff’s Office will assist when they are notified of the president’s schedule on “game day.”

Cherry Fest Director Kat Paye says she hasn’t heard if the President will attend festivities. She says the lack of information surrounding his visit has stressed her team, and left them wondering whether to change deliveries to account for traffic congestion from the President’s arrival.

Local officials guess the President’s choice to come to northern Michigan has to do with the area leading vaccination rates in the state. Grand Traverse County and Leelanau County both currently have the highest rates in Michigan, with 68% and 76% of their populations, respectively, having gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.

Still, Emmy Lucas, a spokesperson for the Grand Traverse County Health Department, says the department hasn’t been contacted by Governor Whitmer’s or the President’s teams regarding the visit, and the health department’s office will be closed as usual on Saturday.

Representatives for the Governor and the White House have not yet responded to IPR’s inquiries about the trip.

Taylor Wizner covers heath, tourism and other news for Interlochen Public Radio.