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National Cherry Festival scheduled for July with modified events

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Traverse City’s biggest tourist event will look different this year.

The National Cherry Festival typically draws around half a million people to the Grand Traverse Bay area to celebrate all things cherry. However, Executive Director Kat Paye said for the first time ever, the celebration will be a hybrid format.

Many events will have the option to be virtual and in-person.

“We had to make some tough calls and we made them. And here we are, we’re excited to still celebrate in every way we can, and we will look at all those things in 2022 as we continue to move forward,” Paye said.

In April 2020 the Cherry festival announced it was cancelling for the year over coronavirus safety concerns. Nearly one year later, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced COVID-19 restrictions will largely be gone in early July, but Paye said most decisions were made months in advance.

The “Cherries got Talent” Competition, the Cherry Royale Parade and the Festival of Races are some of the events that will allow participants to engage virtually. Additionally, The Cherry Festival Air Show had to be cancelled due to scheduling conflicts.

Paye said there still be plenty of events despite the new format.

“Really, it’s all about guidance right now and doing what’s best for your family if that’s coming to celebrate with us, great. If that means celebrate with us virtually that is great too.”

The National Cherry festival had an economic impact of almost $27 million, according to the last economic report released in 2016. Even while the festival was cancelled, Paye said the foundation held low-key events throughout the year, like silent auctions and virtual contests, to remain active in the community.

“Even though we didn’t have a festival in 2020 we plan almost two to three years in advance,” Paye said. “Our foundation also puts on the Iceman Cometh challenge, the Leapin’ Leprechaun 5K and the Cherry T Ball Drop, so we were busy trying to find other ways to celebrate cherries”

Paye said she looks forward to active Traverse City summers again. To stay up to date on the National Cherry Festival, visit the foundation’s website.

Michael Livingston is a senior at Central Michigan University majoring in Journalism and International Relations. He grew up in Hartland, a small town in Livingston County. After graduation in 2022, he aspires to take his reporting abroad as a correspondent.