National Cherry Festival organizers say the annual Traverse City festival will not go on as planned this year.
The festival, which typically occurs the week of the Fourth of July holiday, attracts more than 500,000 people a year to the region, organizers say.
Kat Paye, the Executive Director of the Festival, says she thoroughly investigated the potential health impacts to the community, guests and staff and determined it was too risky to allow the event to continue.
Reports locally and across the state indicate the COVID-19 disease is slowing its spread in Michigan, but Paye says local government officials told her there are too many unknowns about what the health of the country will be like this summer.
“I have very high hopes that yes we will be able to resume a new sense of normal outside of all this in the next few weeks or a month,” Paye says. “But I don’t think anyone can say for sure. And even if we are able to gather together again, are mass large events really the first way to open that up?”
All events have been canceled, except for a raffle, a community art contest and running races, which, for now, may go on, organizers say. The fireworks over the Grand Traverse Bay planned for the last day of the festival are also off.
People who purchased tickets to musical performances and other events will get their money refunded, though some fees collected through outside ticketing agencies might not come back to customers, organizers say.
Paye says the decision to cancel the festival needed to be made sooner than later, because performances and events are booked months and years in advance, and any changes would need to be made swiftly.
Still, she realizes the hurt the event’s cancelation will bring to the local economy.
“That is one of the saddest parts of the entire decision for me. Not only our volunteers and our families in that way are very much impacted because this is a huge part of our tradition,” Paye says. “But it is the economic piece to the community is a deep concern and was taken highly into consideration in this decision.”
In a release, President and CEO of Traverse City Tourism Trevor Tkach said he agreed with the organizers’ decision to cancel the events.
“Not only is the Festival a beloved national tradition, it’s a key economic driver for our region,” he said in the release. “It’s painful to see organizers cancel the 2020 event, but prioritizing the health and safety of festival goers, volunteers and the community is the honorable thing to do.”