The Cherry Blossoms Appear — and so does the National Cherry Festival

This is how it should look by Saturday!

This is how it should look by Saturday!

IMPORTANT NOTE: I’VE MOVED!

Dear friends and readers,

“Loving Traverse City” now has a new address. (It’s a lot easier to remember, too)  You can reach it easily by going to http://blog.traversecity.com/. Or just follow this link.

Thanks!

Mike

By MIKE NORTON

I saw my first cherry blossom today – and by the end of the week I’m pretty sure there’ll be billions more.

Here in Traverse City, the annual blossoming of the cherries is a big deal. We have more than two million cherry trees ranged along the steep glacial ridges above Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Leelanau and Lake Michigan. When they’re in bloom, they’re like battalions of tidy white clouds set against the bright green grass, the fat gold dandelions and the cobalt blue waters.

It’s a beautiful sight, but it’s also a time for worry because cherry farming is a big part of what we do here. Cherries have been part of the Traverse City experience ever since the first cherry tree was planted here in 1852. Over the years, cherry orchards began to spread across the hills of the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas, and today the Traverse City area produces over 75 percent of the world’s tart cherries.

Cherry  Blossoms in Leelanau

Last year’s bloom came very early, thanks to an extremely warm spell in March. It was lovely, but it was followed by killing frosts that pretty much wiped out the 2012 crop. This year things seem to be proceeding normally; we had a very cool March and April, and spring is being very coy – the way she usually is in this part of the world.

The middle of May is when the cherry trees usually start blooming, and I’m thinking we’ll be right on schedule this year. So I felt relaxed enough this morning to wander over to the “sneak preview” press conference for the National Cherry Festival, which is now in its 87th season.

This year’s Cherry Festival will kick off on Saturday, June 29 — a week earlier than usual – with a Festival Air Show, Bay Side entertainment, and lots of tasty cherry treats. The change was made so that Independence Day festivities could be included, since many residents and visitors have come to expect to celebrate the two observances at the same time. The eight-day festival offers over 130 events and attractions,  including free air shows, concerts, two parades, daily kids events, the Festival of Races, and (of course) Cherry Pie Eating and Pit Spitting competitions for every age.

Handing out flags at last year's Cherry Festival Parade

Handing out flags at last year’s Cherry Festival Parade

I did manage to learn a few things while scarfing down some cherry brats and a massive wedge of crumb-crust cherry pie. For one thing, the opening day air shows over West Bay will include a first-ever night show, immediately following the evening outdoor concert by Styx (You probably already heard about that concert; Foreigner, Montgomery Gentry, Aaron Tippin and Jana Kramer will also be performing on the Bayside stage that week.)

I’m trying to imagine what an air show would look like in the dark, and I think it could be fairly amazing.

Lest we forget: Little ruby globes of love...

Lest we forget: Little ruby globes of love…

Other news: Mitch Albom will be the guest at the festival’s National Writer Series event, while TV handyman/heartthrob Carter Oosterhouse will be back to help supervise his new Carter’s Kids fitness run. But honestly, the centerpiece of the festival is still all the fun, mostly free games and activities and parades and shows that happen all week long and make this one of my favorite annual Traverse City traditions. (And so far, my favorite musical group is the local Simon & Garfunkel tribute band Old Friends; they played at today’s presser, and darned if some of them really weren’t old friends. Well, middle-aged friends, at least.)

Want more information about the festival? You can go to their website at www.cherryfestival.org.

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About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
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7 Responses to The Cherry Blossoms Appear — and so does the National Cherry Festival

  1. Mark Watson says:

    the link to the cherryfestival site, is spelled wrong on here….its http://www.cherryfestival.org….with 2 r’s

  2. Kelly says:

    What is the best driving route to see the cherry bloom this weekend around northern Michigan TC area?

    • mikelovestc says:

      Hi, Kelly!
      If you have a limited amount of time, I’d suggest M-37 (Center Road) on the Old Mission Peninsula. It’s close to the city limits, and you get a spectacular view right from the first hill; that’s the picture at the top of this post, in fact. Then you go for several miles with just shoreline and homes — pretty nice in its way — and the blossoms become more spectacular as you climb up again near Chateau Grand Traverse; from then on it’s pretty awesome all the way to the lighthouse. The best part about this drive is that the road is above the orchards, so you look down through them to the water below.

      • Kelly says:

        Hello, is the cherry bloom on the Leelanau Peninsula as good as on Old Mission Peninsula? We will be traveling from Frankfort. Thanks!

      • mikelovestc says:

        Hi, Kelly!
        Yes, the bloom is just as good on the Leelanau Peninsula. It’s just a bit more spread out, but even more fun to go exploring!

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