Cherry Festival In The Black

TRAVERSE CITY – After a few shaky years, the National Cherry Festival is firmly back in the black.

"Compared to four or five years ago our balance sheet is no longer struggling," said festival executive director Trevor Tkach. "The cash flow concerns we had in the past are no longer."

The 86th festival, which netted about $74,000, was notable not only for being the fourth consecutive year of net gain, but also for the significant amount of national media attention it generated.

Tkach estimated the value of the exposure from media such as the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler and Martha Stewart Living to be about $9 million.

"That's a legitimate number; we're very proud of it," he said. "I think [the media attention] has an effect because we see people from all over the country. The work that we do in celebrating the region benefits the area year round."

The money, as is usually the case, will be used for festival improvements. There is also concern that funds need to be put aside in case of poor weather in future years, because, unlike other festivals, the revenue model for the National Cherry Festival is not linked to either its tax base or money received from its Chamber of Commerce.

"We are dependent on revenues from the actual days of the event, so the biggest thing I feel is to be prepared for rain," he said. "A washout would kill sales."

In terms of 2013's event, Tkach said that the festival will feature all of the old favorites, with a twist: a focus on active living.

"The cherry industry in interested in sharing the superfruit news, so we are developing our culinary offerings among other things," he said, referring to the recent media attention given to the health benefits of tart cherry concentrate.

The reconstruction of Clinch Park and the old zoo may have an impact on the festival's layout, but not much more, Tkach said.

"We're waiting patiently to see what Clinch Park will look like," he said. "We may have to move the Global Wine Pavilion [from the old zoo grounds] but beyond that, we'll have to wait and see."

The National Cherry Festival offers over 130 events each year, nearly 80 percent of which are free to attendees. More than 1,500 dedicated volunteers donated 20,000 hours of time to the Festival. In addition, 48 nonprofit organizations volunteered 3,200 hours of time, earning $23,000 total.

Enhancements to the Open Space

The Festival has installed $35,000 worth of electrical resources and more than $30,000 of underground irrigation for the Open Space. The Festival also facilitated repairs and enhancements to the grounds of the Open Space Park.

In 2004, the Festival donated $50,000 for the $250,000 purchase of the Smith Barney property adjacent to the beach volleyball courts.

Carter's Kids Fun Run

More than 300 children enjoyed a one-mile run/walk with hometown celebrity Carter Oosterhouse and his wife, actress Amy Smart. The first-ever Carter's Kids Fun Run, sponsored by Graceland Fruit, preceded the Junior Royale Parade. The proceeds partially benefitted Carter's Kids Foundation, which creates and promotes awareness of fitness and self-esteem for America's youth.

National Writers Series Scholarships for Young Writers

The National Writers Series and the National Cherry Festival teamed up to host an onstage conversation with acclaimed author Janet Evanovich. The event, presented by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, was hosted by Doug Stanton, NWS founder and a New York Times best-selling author, with a portion of the proceeds supported the NWS College Scholarship Fund and the Front Street Writers Program – a cooperative effort with Traverse City Area Public Schools.

Partnership with BATA

Through a partnership with the Bay Area Transit Authority, three park and ride locations with free shuttles serviced the downtown region. BATA offered the service July 7-14 with shuttles that left hourly between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. The partnership is expected to grow in 2013.

Greening Up the Open Space

Compostable and recyclable material was collected during the 2012 National Cherry Festival thanks to partnerships with DTE Energy and Waste Management of Northern Michigan. The 'green stations' offered easy to read bins for products like aluminum cans, plastic water bottles, and food waste. In addition, the Festival has converted all of its cups and flatware to compostable materials, effectively reducing overall reliance on plastics.

Traverse City Boom Boom Club

The TCBBC was formed to provide the annual 4th of July fireworks display over West Grand Traverse Bay. TCBBC has successfully raised more than $57,000 since its inception thanks to the contributions of 56 individuals, seven municipalities, and 10 business and civic organizations.