Traverse City National Cherry Festival | A Pure Michigan Tradition

Ready to embark on a journey bursting with mouth-watering flavors, heart-pounding fun, and heartwarming tradition? Venture beyond the boundaries of Metro Detroit, nestled in the heart of Northern Michigan lies an event so immersive, so teeming with joy and jubilance, that it has become a cornerstone of Michigan culture. This is not merely an invitation—it's a call to an experience that each Michigander must undertake at least once. A rite of passage for some, a beloved annual ritual for others, this is your ticket to the mesmerizing world of the Traverse City National Cherry Festival

Over eight days, this vibrant celebration paints the town red, literally and figuratively, with an unforgettable array of cherry-themed events, traditional festivities, family entertainment, and of course, a tantalizing banquet of cherry-infused treats. Prepare to dive headfirst into a saga that's as rich and tantalizing as the fruit it honors. Buckle up, folks, because the world of cherries is much more than meets the pie!


Festival History

Before we sink our teeth into the meat of the festival, let's rewind the clocks, stroll down memory lane, and unearth the roots of this cherished tradition. The inaugural ceremony of what we now know as the Traverse City National Cherry Festival dates back to 1925. Born as a humble hometown event dubbed the Blessing of the Blossoms, it blossoms annually each July in Traverse City, Michigan—acknowledged worldwide as the cherry capital. Over the passing years, the festival has mushroomed, its fame rippling out to be recognized as a national spectacle, now one of the largest festivals in the nation magnetizing an impressive horde of over 500,000 visitors each year. As we unfold the layers of the festival, you'll comprehend why it's such an endearing tradition, beloved and held dear to the community's heart.


Cherry Chronicles

To truly savor the Cherry Festival's flavor, it's pivotal to comprehend the cherry industry's gravitas in Traverse City and the surrounding regions. Michigan proudly wears the crown as one of the top tart cherry producers in the United States, churning out a whopping 75% of the nation's tart cherry yield. Traverse City, standing tall at the helm, has etched its name in the annals of cherry production history, thus winning it the cherry capital's coveted title. The Cherry Festival is more than a merry celebration of cherries—it stands as a homage to the tireless farmers and community members who've tirelessly churned the gears of the industry's success.



Now that we've sunk our teeth into the festival's fruitful history and appreciated the cherry's significance in the region, let's unravel the events that inject life into this cherry-themed extravaganza. Each celebration, unique and unforgettable in its own way, makes the festival a gem in Michigan's crown.

Cherry Fueled Fun
  1. Kid's Cherry Pie Eating Contest: A battlefield for the fearless and famished, participants race against time to wolf down as much cherry pie as they possibly can. A spectacle of messy faces and hearty laughter, it's an absolute delight for spectators and participants alike!

  2. Cherry Pit Spit: Ever wondered the distance a cherry pit can travel propelled only by human force? This contest lays your curiosity to rest. Contestants huff and puff, spitting cherry pits in a bid to outdistance one another. The event is as peculiar as it sounds, yet irresistibly entertaining.

  3. Cherry Pancake Breakfast: Kickstart the festival with a plate piled high with mouth-watering cherry pancakes. There's no better way to start your day than the cherry way!


Traditional Festivities

Cherries may be the festival's stars, but there's a universe of entertainment beyond the red fruit. The festival hosts a slew of traditional events that cater to all tastes, providing something for everyone to relish. Here's a sneak peek at what you can expect:

  1. Parades: Who can resist the allure of a grand parade? The festival hosts a series of parades, including the DTE Energy Foundation Cherry Royale Parade and the Junior Royale Parade. These colorful processions feature elaborate floats, marching bands, and cherry royalty—it's a feast for the eyes!

  2. Air Shows: Get ready to gaze skyward in awe as expert pilots perform mind-boggling stunts high above Traverse City. Performances by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels are among the past highlights of these gravity-defying displays.

  3. Live Music: What's a festival without foot-tapping music resonating in the air? The Cherry Festival pulls out all the stops in this department. With multiple stages hosting local and national acts spanning various genres, there's music to get everyone's groove on.

  4. Fireworks: Each year, crowds gather along Traverse City's West Bay to gaze at the sky for a brilliant fireworks display. This tends to be one of the biggest and most anticipated displays in Northern Michigan and has been a fan favorite for decades.  

Family Fun

Hauling the family along for the festival? Fear not, there's an abundance of cherry-centric activities to keep both kids and adults engaged:

  1. Kids' Club: A sanctuary for children, the Cherry Festival Kids' Club dishes out a buffet of fun, from arts and crafts to games and obstacle courses—all paying homage to the cherry. It's an enchanting playground where kids can let loose, create, and make new pals.

  2. Cherry Farm Tours: Immerse yourselves in the world of cherries by stepping onto the fertile grounds of local cherry farms. Guided tours provide an exclusive peek into the industry's backbone, illuminating the toil and dedication that goes into cultivating these much-loved fruits.

  3. Midway Rides and Games: The festival unfurls a landscape of joy rides and games, a midway sparking with exhilaration. From roller coasters that get your heart pounding to Ferris wheels that offer breathtaking views, there's an adventure for everyone.


Feast of Flavors

It would be a travesty to narrate the Cherry Festival tale without giving due credit to the dazzling spread of cherry-laced delicacies that steal the show:

Food Booths: Traverse City's local vendors step up, dishing out an array of cherry-laden delights. Be it cherry pie that makes your taste buds dance, cherry salsa that packs a punch, cherry brats that hit the spot, or cherry-infused beverages to quench your thirst—there's a cherry for every palate. There of course are a large number of additional vendors set up dishing out all of your favorite foods to indulge on during your festival stay. And don’t hesitate to venture out and explore any of the Traverse City restaurants located downtown - there are plenty to choose from and TC has one of the top food scenes in the Mitten!

Cherry Wine and Beer Tastings: And for the adults in the crowd, don't miss the chance to savor cherry-inspired wines and beers. Local wineries and breweries roll out their best brews, offering a chance to taste the region's unique flavors and support the community in one fell swoop.


As the cherry red sun sets on the Traverse City National Cherry Festival, we're left with sticky fingers, happy hearts, and a newfound appreciation for the humble fruit that brought us together. This eight-day jubilee transcends being a simple celebration—it's a heartfelt homage to Michigan's rich agricultural heritage, a testament to community spirit, and a sensory feast that leaves no palate untickled. Whether it's your first or fifteenth time, the memories created here—of laughter ringing through the air, cherry pits flying across fields, and the shared joy of tasting that perfect cherry treat—are as sweet and enduring as the cherries themselves. So, from Metro Detroit and beyond, we bid farewell to this year's festival with cherry-stained smiles, carrying the taste of summer in our mouths and the anticipation of next year's cherry-filled adventures in our hearts. Here's to the fruit that paints our town red and our festival grand. Until next time, Traverse City, keep on cherishing the cherry!




Posted by Michael Perna on


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