National Cherry Festival

Warm temperatures help cherry crop

Jun 19, 2018
Peter Payette

After a slow start to the growing season, cherry farmers are gearing up for the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City starting June 30.  Cherries are some of the first crops to bloom in Michigan, and officials say early spring weather can significantly impact their growth.

David Cassleman

When you think about car towns, you might not picture Traverse City. But the town used to be home to an automobile manufacturer. A company called Napoleon Motors briefly made cars and trucks in downtown Traverse City during the late 1910s and 1920s.

Napoleon was originally located in Ohio, but Traverse City officials were able to lure the company to northern Michigan with tax incentives, says Jonathan Klinger. He’s the vice president of public relations at Hagerty Insurance — a company that insures classic cars.

“It was a very exciting time for what was a new automotive industry,” Klinger says.

Today in 1928, the Cherry Festival moved to July

Jul 20, 2015
Traverse City Tourism AP

July 19, 1928 marks the date of the first Cherry Festival held in July. Before that, a festival known as “the Blessing of the Blossoms” was held in May.

Morgan Springer


Behind the bright colors and dizzying rides at the National Cherry Festival is a group of people who work long hours and love their jobs. Carnies are a community, and Matt Cunningham says they wear the carny title proudly.

"I love being a carny, you know," says Cunningham. "It’s a lifestyle. It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle."

The carnival at the Cherry Festival looks like a Kodachrome picture - bright primary colors and signs with old fonts. It has that classic fried food smell, and children on rides are squealing the requisite amount.

Committee to look at Cherry Festival changes

Nov 11, 2014

A special committee will consider making long-term changes to the National Cherry Festival. Traverse City commissioners decided last night to form the committee, which will work with festival organizers on potential changes.

Those changes could include forcing moving the festival’s dates away from the Fourth of July weekend. The committee is also likely to ask organizers to shorten the amount of time the festival occupies city parkland.

Commissioner Jim Carruthers says the festival takes too long to set-up and take down.

Poll shows support for Cherry Festival changes

Sep 22, 2014
Traverse City Tourism AP

The Traverse City Commission meets tonight to discuss possible changes to the National Cherry Festival.

Suggestions include shortening the length of the festival, moving it away from the busy Fourth of July weekend and changing its location.

In advance of the discussion, the Traverse City Ticker conducted a survey of downtown business owners, asking what they thought of the possible changes.

IPR's Aaron Selbig  asked Ticker Publisher Luke Haase about how the survey was conducted.

The History Press

All those festivities going on in Traverse City the next 10 days, the jet planes and carnival rides, that all started with a prayer about ninety years ago. Some cherry growers in the region asked local clergy to bless their blossoms. Somebody saw the potential to draw visitors. A little more than a decade later, 100,000 visitors where coming to the National Cherry Festival.

Brooks Vanderbush walks through this history in a new book about the festival.