From Farmers and Volunteers to Friends and Family of the festival, we have a wide variety of experiences at the National Cherry Festival that you've maybe never seen or heard. These are their "Cherry Tales".
For 50 years, Bob & Janet Underwood have been consumed by red tart cherries. Together they have planted, grown, harvested, processed, manufactured & marketed fruit and fruit products in the Cherry Capital of the World, in Traverse City, Michigan. They bought their first farm (203 acres) in 1963 on Old Mission Peninsula.
Phil & Patti Lyon were married on the parade route on July 11, 1992. The float, and idea to to marry a couple from the farming community, was carefully crafted by the Williams Brothers.
"Donating my time and energy for the benefit of other people and the place we call home is rewarding far beyond what any financial reward may be able to offer. The National Cherry Festival offers a platform for community members to engage with each other and really make a meaningful contribution to an important part of our economic landscape."
Mary and Whitney Lyon of Island View Orchards run the longest continuous running cherry farm on the Old Mission Peninsula. The farm has been owned by the same family since 1878.
"After interning at The National Cherry Festival, I knew I wanted to move to Traverse City. I ended up seeking out a job here after my internship ended and later was hired full-time by the festival. Now, my mom is moving to Traverse City. The festival and this great city charmed us to come back!"
"Growing through the ranks of the festival over the past eight years has taught me valuable skills such as dedication and communication that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The opportunities afforded by this event have also contributed to my passion to pursue a career where I can give back to my community."
"The National Cherry Festival would not be what it is today if it weren't for the dedicated volunteers. I find it amazing how the community of Traverse City comes together in promoting everything this beautiful area and festival has to offer. Seeing the time and dedication from the volunteers while growing up inspired me to also get involved."
"The reason why I love to walk in 5K's is because I like walking more then being in my wheelchair. My experience from the festival and the race is great. I love walking with people around me who support me all the way. The two words I don't use are "can" or "can't". I just say, 'I WILL!'"
I have so many great memories of running the Festival of Races -- it's become a family tradition for me, my husband Joe, and our three children. We especially love running the 5K together.
"With Michigan producing 75% of the U.S. supply of tart cherries on an annual basis, and about half of those cherries are produced in counties surrounding Traverse City, the National Cherry Festival is uniquely positioned to serve as an ambassador for the cherry industry. The National Cherry Festival is an incredible partner."
When Cindy Pleva became the National Cherry Queen in 1987, she wanted to do her part in selling more tart cherries so she enlisted the help from her father, Ray Pleva, a local butcher, to incorporate tart cherries into his meat products.
Ray Pleva and his cherry sausage making float, with polka music was the highlight of Cherry Festival parades for 26 years. Ray also had the privilege of being the Grand Marshal of the Cherry Royale Parade.
Ray, a local butcher, has helped create over 70 cherry-enhanced meat formulations, including the popular Plevalean® which has made an appearance on Oprah, the Home Improvement Show with Tim Allen and is one of Mario Batali’s top Northern Michigan foodie picks!
My experience as National Cherry queen was filled with passion for the cherry industry and the opportunity to serve my community. At the end of my year I had formed amazing friendships that have proved to be lifelong. I also felt so embraced by the cherry festival family, cherry industry, and community. I will be forever grateful!
"Who knew when I was a Cherry Prince in 1984 at Oak Park Elementary that I would later become the Executive Director of The National Cherry Festival? It warms my heart to be a part of making this festival truly great and I feel honored to be serving the festival so many years after getting the crown."
“Interning with The National Cherry Festival was the best experience I could ask for. I learned so much while working with great staff and many volunteers. I would recommend this internship to anyone interested in making northern Michigan a better place while having a lot of fun.”
"My experience with the Festival introduced me, as a non-native, to the professional, social, and, of course, cherry-related scenes in Traverse City. Not only did I gain experience in a non-profit business setting, but I was lucky enough to spend three months in one of the most beautiful cities in Michigan. It was everything one could ask for in a summer internship."
"It is not very often you find an internship that surrounds you with a sense of family and the opportunities on a National Level, the NCF gives you both. Experiences you will never forget!”
Peter started selling pins in 1991. He has continued to sell commemorative pins each year since. Peter holds the record for Top Pin Seller since 1993. Over the course of his 24 years in pin sales, his grand total for amount sold to is: 198,039 pins with a goal to hit 200,000 pins in 2015. Peter was born and raised in Traverse City, MI.
"I don’t know if every little girl dreams of being a princess, but I know that I was one who did, and for a few short days in July of 1953, my dream was fulfilled. And every year, for a week in July I am reminded how fortunate I am to live in this place, a privilege that makes me feel like royalty every day of my life."
"Of all the blessings that came from being the National Cherry Queen, self confidence is undoubtedly the one that has been the most useful. Comparison is the death of creativity, so having confidence in who I was and what I had to offer was a huge turning point for me. I no longer had to see who else I wanted to be, but I looked within to see who I already was and how that fits my situation. I wouldn't have been able to move to California to pursue a career as an actress if I didn't have that self confidence, and I have my year as the NCQ to thank for that!"
In 1983 my college roommate from MSU and I traveled to Traverse City for our first Cherry Fest 15K. We didn't have hotel reservations so a college friend let us sleep in their barn in Glen Arbor. It was dreadfully hot inside so we tried to sleep under the stars, but then get eaten alive by mosquitoes. We got ourselves awake by jumping in Little Glen before making our way to Traverse City. It took us a couple hours to make our way back to the Central High parking lot because we were so tired after the race, but that race is still my 15K pr. Maybe I should go find a good barn this year? After moving to town in 1987, I've made it to the starting line most years.