Everything — even the beer — is coming up cherries at the 88th National Cherry Festival starting next weekend in Traverse City.
I was surprised to hear that Right Brain Brewery, located in the city’s Warehouse District, throws in 40 real cherry pies from Grand Traverse Pie Company and another 40 “deconstructed” pies (that is, minus the crumb crusts) in each batch of its Cherry Pie Whole Beer, which will be flowing throughout the eight-day extravaganza.
And while the popular festival officially runs July 5-12, visitors can kick off their holiday weekend sooner, starting at 1 p.m. July 4 when the U.S. Navy Blue Angels — back for the first time in four years — perform a full practice run before their official shows, July 5 and 6, above West Grand Traverse Bay. All of the performances, which feature the first festival flight of an F-22 Raptor, are free, though you can join three cherry-related viewing events at the Hagerty Conference Center on the bay for an even more festive experience.
New this year is the Great American Picnic, a family-friendly party, on July 4 and Blues, Brews & BBQ on July 5.
The perennially popular Cherries D’Vine food- and wine-tasting event is July 6.
Check www.cherryfestival.org for ticket and schedule information, including concerts, parades and several race events such as a new half- marathon through an Old Mission Peninsula cherry orchard and the Festival 10k, back for the first time in 36 years.
While local cherries are not expected to be ready until mid-July — and local farmers are forecasting the biggest crop in years — there will be plenty of festival cherries supplied by Traverse City’s sister cherry-producing region, Yakima, Washington. You’ll find them in everything from cider, sauces, sausages and salad dressings to pancakes, fudge and lemonade, not to mention Right Brain Brewery’s cherry pie beer.