Making it all possible: The role volunteers play at the Cherry Festival

Volunteers at the National Cherry Festival.

GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mi. (WPBN/WGTU) — ”It’s like a two week family reunion," said National Cherry Festival volunteer Dennis Mikko. "Make sure it runs smoothly and have a blast doing it."

While Mikko is working long hours at the National Cherry Festival, he isn't making a dime.

“There’s no way you could pay to have the amount of work done that’s done,” said Mikko.
‘We are nothing without our volunteers, they are pretty much what runs the festival,” said Director of Operations Alexis Bremer. “Roughly, the number is around 2,400 volunteers that come and help us out during this week... it’s really amazing that people just volunteer their time.”

Lots of volunteers like the Hardy family from Buckley treat volunteering at the Cherry Festival like a vacation.

“We’ve been back here for 5 years,” said 15 year old Julia Hardy. “But we’ve been working overall for about 15.”

The Hardy's have volunteered as a family for years, starting as volunteers working concessions.

“The kids were in strollers when we first brought them here,” said dad John Hardy, who now runs the catering tent for musicians behind the main stage with his family.
“Basically, what we provide them is a green room back here to keep them comfortable while they’re getting ready for the show,” said John Hardy.

However, they aren't the only ones who treat the Cherry Festival as a family affair.

“Both of my kids volunteered," said Mikko. "Actually, probably from the time they could walk and follow dad around."

As for the Hardy's, should the time come when John decides to hang up his apron, his kids are ready to take over.

“When Dad decides that he wants to retire form doing this we’ll probably take over because we love doing it," Julia Hardy said. "It’s something really really fun to do.”
“We kinda grew up here," said 17 year old Jessica Hardy. "This is what we’ve always done every summer.”