In 1852 Peter Dougherty planted the first cherry tree on the Old Mission Peninsula, an experiment with which he unexpectedly found great success. 150 years later, Traverse City is known for their cherries, an industry that has been of vital importance to the town, and is exemplified by the National Cherry Festival that takes place every summer. Michigan produces 75% of the United States’ tart cherries, the majority of which are grown on Traverse City’s 3.8 million tart cherry trees. Many of these trees can be found in the same area that Mr. Dougherty first planted his, out on the Old mission Peninsula, where the ground is very fertile from the weather effects of Lake Michigan.
Beginning in 1924, Traverse City held a spring ceremony known as the “Blessing of the Blossoms” to celebrate the delicious fruit. Eventually, this festival was changed to the National Cherry Festival, an eight day celebration in July bringing in over 500,000 attendees over the span of the festival. Cherry pit spitting competitions, Cherry Pie eating competitions, and other carnival festivities highlight the annual celebration that pays homage to the fruit that has played a large part in boosting the economy of this northern Michigan city.
The influence of cherries is evident throughout the town, with many restaurants adopting cherry recipes, as well as an entire company, “Cherry Republic”, dedicated to as many delicious adaptations you could possibly think of. With all of this dedication, its no wonder that Traverse City has been labeled the “Cherry Capital of the World.”