By JADA PENN
Capital News Service
LANSING — Sunny skies, concerts, food and fun will be happening in Traverse City, Grand Rapids and other Michigan communities as festivals return this year after cancellations and limitations in the previous two years due to COVID-19.
The National Cherry Festival is returning to downtown Traverse City July 2-9 and will mark its 96-year anniversary.
It celebrates cherries in Northern Michigan, which produces 70% of the nation’s cherries, according to executive director Kat Paye.
In 2020, the festival was canceled due to COVID-19, and in 2021 some events were changed, such as having smaller concerts and a drive-through parade, while its usual air show was canceled.
This year, visitors can look forward to the Community Royale Parade and Cherry Royale Parade, eight concerts, two air shows and 150 events.
Paye said the main focus of the festival is always the agriculture of cherries.
“We have a pie-eating contest and you can get cherry pie flurries at our ice cream tent in order to taste the harvest,” Paye said.
Mike Szukhent, the president of Michigan Festivals and Events Association, said festivals and other events ran at a 30% rate in 2021, while this year the association expects close to a 100% rate.
Szukhent said he spoke with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who said there won’t be any restrictions this year so festivals and events can go back to normal scheduling.
“We’re looking at 2022 being a major uptick because there aren’t any regulations or restrictions prohibiting festivals,” Szukhent said.
Among them is the Asian-Pacific Festival on June 10-11 and Roll’N Out Food Truck Festival May 22, both in Grand Rapids.
The Asian-Pacific Festival was canceled in 2020 and took place on a restricted basis as a smaller event in 2021.
Festival director Mai Thao said organizers this year are anticipating the biggest turnout ever and people are ready to continue the free celebration in a safe and COVID-friendly environment.
Friday night will be dedicated to Pacific Islander Night and Saturday is Hmong night, according to Thao.
Meanwhile, the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association expects over 35 participants in its Roll’N Out Food Truck Festival after cancellations in 2020 and 2021, according to Lauren D’Angelo, the association’s vice president.
“We are excited to get all of the food trucks together in Grand Rapids and celebrate the food truck culture and growth,” D’Angelo said.
“We want everyone to come out, try new things and check out all the new food trucks in the area. We hope everyone leaves with a full tummy and great experience,” she said.
For more information on summer festivals, go to www.michiganfun.com.