American Food Festivals - This cherry producing region might have the granddad of all summer food festivals

Early summertime is when a universally popular fruit finds its way into your nearby grocery store and, here in California, to our local farmer markets. We are, of course, referring to cherries.

Our next tour stop is the United States' largest tart cherry-producing state, Michigan, specifically the northern Lower Peninsula city of Traverse City.

Cherry cultivation started in 1839 on the Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City. As such, the eight-day National Cherry Festival is one of the nation's oldest food festivals, having started in 1925, and could call itself the Rose Bowl of all food festivals.

Prepare to be immersed in a whirlwind of activities at the eight-day festival, running from June 29 through July 6. From high-energy concerts featuring renowned groups like Stone Temple Pilots and Jefferson Starship to thrilling beach volleyball tournaments and vibrant parades, there's something for everyone. Don't miss the June 30 air show by the legendary U.S. Navy's Blue Angels. 

At the heart of the festival, of course, are the cherries. Indulge in the seasonal delight with the Very Cherry Flying Pancake Breakfast, a breakfast experience like no other. For a more hands-on experience, visit the nearby U-pick cherry orchards, and Michigan State University Horticultural Research Station will conduct orchard tours.

And what's a cherry festival without some fun competitions? Test your skills in the Adult Cherry Pit Spit Contest or watch the little ones in the Kid's Cherry Pie Eating Contest. There is an Adult Pie Eating Contest, but no word if Joey CHestnut will compete!

If you make the trek to Traverse City, nearby cities along Lake Michigan are worth visiting, like Petoskey and Charlevoix. And, of course, the world-famous Mackinac Island is about an hour north via ferry from Mackinac City or St. Ignace. For the more adventurous, visiting the spectacular Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore is just a short drive away and worth seeing (see picture below)

If you travel by air, the closest major airports are Grand Rapids, Mich., Chicago, and Detroit. 

Life in Traverse City will be a bowl of cherries! 

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