I collected this piece of folklore from my brother, who went to school in Michigan. Traverse City has a Cherry Festival every summer, and this is his experience of it:
Skye: “Along the northern shores of Lake Michigan sits Traverse City. The city is along Grand Traverse Bay and sits at the lower end of a fertile peninsula. For decades, the area has been the self-designated Cherry Capitol of the world because of its good farmland.”
Me: How long has the festival been around?
Skye: I’m pretty sure it started at the turn of the century. The farmers would have an annual “blessing of the blossoms” in the spring–much like a blessing of the fleet in fishing communities. There is also a Cherry Blossom Queen, and a parade. The single day observance grew to be several days long. And now, the contemporary festival is 8 days long.”
Me: What does the festival consist of?
Skye:”There is a professional mascot named Super Cherry. Merchants set up stands and sell everything imaginable that is Cherry related. Main stage entertainers come from all over the world. There are baking and craft contests. Local restaurants and hotels are full and menus feature Cherry sauce, Cherry pie, Cherry mustard, Cherry wine, Cherry syrup, Cherry horseradish and Cherry ice cream.”
Analysis: Other communities in the US have food related festivals and observances– for instance Gilroy Garlic Days in California and the world famous Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Food festivals such as these are a reminder of how America became such a prosperous country, abounding with fertile soil. Many people nowadays do not farm as their main way of making money. But Americans who have multiple generations from the U.S. likely have ancestors who farmed. Celebrating the cherry is celebrating hard work, abundance, our history as an agricultural society, and our ability to innovate with simple foods.
For the official website, see here: http://www.cherryfestival.org/