It's the end of June, yet the 87th Annual National Cherry Festival is just days away, and not everyone is happy about it.
A recent editorial published by the Record Eagle and written by a local cherry farmer has sparked a hot debate about the early start. The June kick-off date is two days earlier than it has ever been. The author, Wendy Warren, and her family have been cherry farmers for the last 38-years on Old Mission Peninsula and say that most cherries won't be ready until mid July and that the festival that is meant to celebrate the harvest of the local crop, has turned into more of an economic celebration.
"When it's cherry festival time and tourists and locals as well come looking for cherries, they're very surprised that the aren't cherries ripe," said Warren.
Executive Director of the National Cherry Festival, Trevor Tkach, says that holding the festival next week, while more people are flocking to the area for the holiday, will help raise more awareness about the cherry. When approached by the city, Tkach says organizers took a lot of different things into consideration to make the decision.
"We did our do diligence and we knew there would be some challenges with it but we also knew that we believed we could get more bang for the buck, more people exposed to the cherry by doing the festival this week rather than next," said Tkach.
Tkach says that there will be Michigan, and Grand Traverse area cherries present.
"I have been assured by our farmers market that we will have Michigan cherries and local cherries for the festival," said Tkach.
Just not Warren's cherries.
"Yup, they're starting to get red," said Warren. "They are supposed to be black and they have a ways to go, probably 3 weeks."
While organizers say that pushing the festival back was an option, it would also interrupt other Northern Michigan celebrations.
"There are a number of other civic celebrations going on in the region," said Tkach. "Albion fest, Venetian Fest, Harbor Days in Elk Rapids. And moving back would have disrupted a number of those events but moving earlier doesn't."
"It's not that I have beef with it," said Warren. " I just want to make my customers happy. And I can't sell unripe fruit and I can't sell certainly out of state fruit, and I'm reluctant to sell out of the Grand Traverse area fruit."