97th Annual Cherry Festival

This year’s Cherry Festival returns, with new performers and events to go along with it


2023 Cherry Festival details.

Jocelynn Schoenlein, Staff Writer

   At 97 years old, Cherryfest is back again with a weeks’ worth of fun for the whole town. The festival brings in an annual amount of over 500,000 visitors over the span of eight days and has had many famous visitors and performers.
  This year’s festival will happen July 1-8, and there are lots of festivities to look forward to. Each of the eight nights will feature a musical performance at the Pepsi Bayside Music Stage, with lots of vendors and carnival rides all day.
  Some returning all-day events include the vendor tents, cherry market, Kid’s Club and midway. These events will open daily at 10:00 a.m. and close at 10:00 p.m., while the midway is open from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.  On July 1, the morning hours will feature a Very Cherry Flying Pancake Breakfast, with cherry-flavored toppings and locally sourced maple syrup. All proceeds for this event will go towards the Festival Foundation and NMC’s Aviation program. Another event, starting at 9:00 a.m., will be Bayside Beach Volleyball, with all inclusive tournaments for two person and four person teams. The tournaments will take place at the volleyball courts at the West End Park. The special music performance for that night will be Here Come The Mummies and Laith Al-Saadi.
On July 2,
Yoga By The Bay could be a perfect start to the day, with exercises for those new to yoga or experienced in it. Another great stop for the day is the Arts and Crafts Fair happening on Union Street. All vendors featured will be local Midwesterners with lots of unique and hand-crafted items available for purchase. At 1:00 p.m., the United States Air Force Thunderbirds will be performing solo and team air routines. This event will go until 4:00 p.m. and is completely free. The last event to visit before heading over to the Pepsi Bayside Music Stage for the night is the Sand Sculpture contest. This contest starts at 6:00 p.m. and there will be different divisions based on age and group size. There is no fee for this event. The music performance for this night will be Flo Rida.
  On July 3, the day is much calmer, with a lot of repeat events such as bingo, cherry marketers and Kids Club going on, but there are a few highlights. This day’s events seem to be geared towards younger audiences, with a Kid’s Pet Show, Bubblegum Blowing Contest and Cherry Pie Eating Contest, all for ages 12 & under. There will also be adult Cherry Pie Eating and Pit Spitting contests. This night’s musical performance is Night Ranger, with special guest Stephen Pearcy’s Ratt. 
Halfway through the festival on July 4, is another chill day at the festival. Many returning events and vendors will be open.
A cornhole tournament will take place from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and the musical performance for the night will be Theory of a Deadman and Skillet. After their performances, there will be a firework show to celebrate the 4th of July, at 10:30 p.m. This event is put on by the Traverse City Boom Boom Club.
  July 5 will be a little busier than the 4th, with an X-Golf qualifier Hole-In-One competition, Garden party and Kids Cherry Town Fun Night. The Hole-In-One competition will be from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will be $5 for 3 shots. Those who qualify will have a chance to return on July 8 for a chance to win $50,000. The Garden Party will have fairy garden and butterfly tours, and upgraded packages for an even more magical garden experience. Kids Cherry Town Fun Night will include performers, hands on experiences, arts and crafts and face painting. Tonight’s musical performance is part of 3 Doors Down anniversary tour and will also have special guest Candlebox.
  July 6 will be a busy day for the festival, and an active one too. Start the morning off with a Cherry Pie Bike Ride at 9:00 a.m., and then go right into curling at 10:00 a.m. with the brand new Traverse City Curling Club. Then take a look at the returning Ultimate Air Dogs competition, which will take place at various times throughout the day. This event helps move competitors onto the regional competitions. Another great event is the Cherry Mile and Kids Fun Run, both mile-long races, just for different age groups, and will take place at 4:30 p.m. for the adults, and at 6:00 p.m. for the kids. At 6:30 p.m., join the junior royals for a parade from Front to Union, ending on 7th Street. The musical performance of the night is Jordan Davis, with special guest Tyler Booth.
July 7 will be another busy one, with a
sandcastle contest, Cherries Got Talent, chalk art, bowling and more. The sandcastle contest will begin at 9:00 a.m. and will be separated up in time chunks based on age. It will run until about 12:00 p.m. At 2:00 p.m., Cherries Got Talent finalists will compete for prizes. Chalk art will happen between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. and is available for kids 5-12. The musical performance will be done by rock band Chicago.
  On the very last day of the Cherry Festival, lots of events will be coming to a close, including the Hole-In-One X-Golf tournament, Ultimate Air Dogs and the Meijer Festival of Races. It will be a quieter day as the 97th festival ends, with the last performance on the Pepsi Bayside Music Stage being not music, but comedy. Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy will be the final performers on the stage of the year. But the festival won’t go out without a bang. At 10:30 p.m., fireworks will mark the official end of the 2023 National Cherry Festival.
  This year’s schedule has something for everyone, no matter what days or how many days you go.