The National Cherry Festival
Beginning around the year 1910, cherry growers in the area would hold annual “blessing of the blossoms” ceremonies in May. These informal ceremonies occurred for several years before local Traverse City businesses began to partner with the cherry growers to promote the cherry industry. On May 22, 1925, the first “Blessing of the Blossoms Festival” was held, a precursor to what is now known as the National Cherry Festival, and the festival quickly gained national attention. The following year, Hawkins Bakery of Traverse City baked a cherry pie that was three feet in diameter and contained over 5,000 cherries and presented it to President Calvin Coolidge. Three years later, the success of the festival prompted the city board members to make the 1930 Blessing of the Blossoms Festival a three-day event, and the opening ceremonies were attended by President Herbert Hoover that year.
The festival continued to expand, and in 1931 the state legislature passed a resolution making the festival a national celebration. The National Cherry Festival was celebrated every year after that until it was suspended in 1942 because of the Second World War. In 1946, the war was over, but there was no festival, for the committee believed it was too soon after the war. The next year, Traverse City celebrated its Centennial and therefore the Cherry Festival was postponed once again. However, the Cherry Festival was celebrated in 1948 and has been an annual celebration ever since.
Other noteworthy years include 1964, when the Cherry Festival was expanded to a five-day celebration and was soon changed to a week-long event in 1968. In 1975, the festival was visited by another president, Michigan native Gerald Ford, who acted as Grand Marshall of the parade. 1978 saw the beginning of a famous Cherry Festival tradition, when the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performed for the first time. Also, in 1987, participants of the Cherry Festival broke the world record for baking the world’s largest cherry pie, which was 17 feet 6 inches in diameter and weighed 28,350 pounds.
The National Cherry Festival continues to attract massive crowds to this day, with annual attendance at over 500,000 people throughout the week. There are over a hundred events every year, most of which are free, so there is never a dull moment. For lovers of excitement, great food and drink, and beautiful scenery, the National Cherry Festival is a must see!