The National Cherry Festival is June 29 to July 6, 2019 in the heart of Traverse City. This festival has over 150 events and 85% of those events are free! There are three magnificent parades, a Cherry Queen, a slew of Cherry Princes and Princesses and one lovable mascot: Super Cherry. If your crew gets a chance to come to the festival this year, here’s a peek at some of 2019 highlights for everyone from adults to kiddos… and the foodies in every crew.
For the grown-ups
It’s pretty hard to beat a night that includes outdoor music, fresh air and a sunset over the bay. But that’s exactly what you get night after night at the numerous concerts at the Bay Side Music Stage during the festival.
This year, July 3 brings Nelly, an American rapper, singer and songwriter with special guests Chingy and Montell Jordan, while country music doubles up with Brett Young on July 1, and Josh Turner on July 5. Traverse City welcomes comedians Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias and Jeff Dunham during separate performances during the week, as well. (Bonus: If you have a set of pipes on you, try your hand at the Cherry Idol Auditions on July 5. All participants perform a 60-second song of their choice, without any background music, in a bid to move on to the final round. Kids welcome too.)
Another adult cornerstone at the festival? The Beer Tent! The 21+ crowd can enjoy beer, wine and cocktails every night while situated in the middle of the Open Space hub-bub. Other fun activities for the week include Yoga by the Bay, Bayside Zumba and the Festival of Races (work off the indulgences in the 5k, 10k, 15k or half).
For the families
The Cherry Festival is an endless choice of family fun. To narrow the choices, we’ll point you to the two newest additions this year:
July 3- 6 brings the G.T. Butterfly House & Bug Zoo to the festival. The GT Butterfly Experience is a walk-through exhibit, with the opportunity to feed butterflies. You’ll find several species of North American butterflies on display, including the Monarch butterfly, and learn more about its migration and how you can help save butterflies in your own back yard. And, all week, enjoy the “NASA: Journey to Tomorrow” Exhibit on Union Street. The exhibit trailer is one of NASA's premier traveling exhibits. On display are spacecraft such as NASA X-Planes, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and NASA’s new rocket - the Space Launch System. Get a look at an authentic Moon rock brought to Earth by the crew of the Apollo 17 lunar landing mission, too.
Families can hit all the traditional favorites at the festival like the Arnold Amusement Midway, the cherry pie eating contests, the cherry pit spit battles and the endless choices of the activities offered by the daily Kids Club. But don’t forget the MUST-DO for families: The U.S. Coast Guard Open Ramp. This event on the evening of June 28 at the USCG Air Station in Traverse City. Meet and greet the pilots and get an up close look (and touch) of the planes used in the Cherry Festival Air Show! This year’s high flyers feature the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds roaring over the Open Space June 29-30.
For the foodies
For all ages, the festival is the perfect place to treat your taste buds. Kick off the week with the Very Cherry Flying Pancake Breakfast on June 29: At this event, pancakes fly through the air and you need to catch them on your plate!
Later that afternoon, catch Blues, Brew & BBQ, an event held from 1-4 p.m. during the Air Show. While they wow the crowd, dig into cherry smoked pulled pork sliders and finish with cherry pie (naturally!). Wash it all down with micro-brews from around Michigan and maybe a toast to the skies.
Sunday June 30 brings the Great American Picnic during the second air show of opening weekend. Settle in with cherry-inspired picnic food and outdoor games and fun for the whole family. This event promises frankfurters and cherry shortcake for all while the pilots perform formation flying and solo routines.
And the highlight for Traverse City foodies: The Sara Hardy Farmers Market in the Old Town parking deck and the week-long Cherry Farmers Market at the Festival Open Space.
Visit the Cherry Festival website for more information on all events, as some are ticketed and limited. Plus, you’ll find an entire calendar online and links to plan your festival fun!