What Not to Miss at the Traverse City Film Festival and National Cherry Festival this July

Summer is festival time in Michigan, and July brings two really big ones to Traverse City: the National Cherry Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival. Everyone has their favorite events, and guest blogger Mike Norton of Traverse City Tourism offers his own personal preferences.

I’m not normally a crowd person — but there are times when I will gladly hang out with thousands of other people.

Ball games, for instance. Oh, and the Junior Royale Parade at the National Cherry Festival.

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Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Now in its 88th year, the Cherry Festival (July 5-12) is Traverse City’s signature event, drawing as many as 500,000 attendees from around the country. And although some of my friends like to huff and puff about how long it lasts and how it snarls up traffic, most of us have events that we never miss if we can help it. I mean, with more than 150 family-friendly activities (air shows, fireworks, parades, games, races, midway rides, demonstrations, banquets and nightly outdoor concerts) it’s hard to avoid having a favorite.

For some, it’s the stunning airshow over Grand Traverse Bay, especially in years like this one when the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels will be the headliners. Even before the Festival officially gets underway, they’ll be giving us a Fourth of July treat, and for the next two days there’ll be free shows in the sky. Some folks will also be excited that this year the  Detroit Red Wings will be holding their annual development camp in Traverse City during Cherry Festival week.

Others love the nightly concerts down along the beach. This year’s lineup includes Collective Soul, Here Come the Mummies, the Bihlman Bros., the Gin Blossoms, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, the Under the Sun Tour (Sugar Ray, Smashmouth, Blues Traveler, and Uncle Kracker), Justin Moore, and Tommy James & The Shondells.

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Everybody has favorites: the marching band competitions, the food tastings, the fireworks, the midway rides, the excursions out to working cherry farms – after all, the Cherry Festival is still our way of celebrating Traverse City’s role as “America’s Cherry Capital.” And for many folks, the Big Event is the huge Cherry Royale Parade held on Saturday afternoon, the last day of the festival – an enormous procession of floats, bands, marching units, clowns and grinning politicians that draws 50,000 spectators each year.

But my favorite parade is a smaller affair, one that takes place on Thursday evening. The Junior Royale Parade is for kids – in fact, someone told me that it may be the largest all-kid parade in the country. Hundreds of youngsters make their way down the Traverse City streets, marching along, steering their decorated bikes and trikes, leading their reluctant pets, riding on their lovingly constructed school floats or dozing in their baby buggies.

Maybe it’s the early evening atmosphere, so cool and dreamy and filled with just-after-dinner contentment. Maybe it’s the earnest wholesomeness of the whole adventure. But when I’m sitting at the curb during the Junior Royale watching those kids go by, I feel a connection to a sweeter, less frantic time and place. I remember the sights, sounds and smells of summer celebrations when I was a kid – the kind of memories I hope my own kids have, the kind of memories that we should hold on to.

The other thing I’ve always loved about the Cherry Festival is that most of it’s available to ordinary working people. Everything is located within walking distance, and since almost all the events are free, it offers more than a week of affordable family fun. I think that’s one reason why it’s been listed among USA Today’s top ten festivals for several years running.

Traverse City Film Festival – July 29th – August 3rd

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Founded in 2005, the Traverse City Film Festival has been able to lure movie buffs away from the beaches and golf courses with an outstanding selection of independent, foreign, and documentary films, as well as premieres, parties, panel discussions and lectures about the world of film.

Most events are held near downtown — at the vintage State Theatre, the brand-new Bijou by the Bay theatre in Clinch Park, the City Opera House, and the Old Town Playhouse – but there are also free family movies shown each night on a huge inflatable outdoor screen at Open Space Park , on the shore of West Grand Traverse Bay. (Guess what – my favorite part!)

If you’re any type of a movie-watcher, most of these will be films you’ve already seen – probably more than once. But that’s not the point. It’s really about watching a movie while sitting on a blanket on the grass, surrounded by other folks. In fact, to keep the whole thing community-based, the Film Festival folks routinely ask participants what films they’d like to see on the big Friday night movie. This year, it’ll be “Star Wars.” Other free films this year are “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park,” “Casablanca,” “The Goonies,” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

The Film Festival is a “weatherproof” summer event that allows participants to sample from a broad menu of film screenings and other events at any time of day or evening. Since most of the events are concentrated in Traverse City’s compact downtown area, there’s a multitude of shopping and dining options close at hand. (Plus, there’s the added thrill of meeting up with a movie star or two out on the street during Festival Week!)

Other than the nightly films on the grass at the Open Space, most events during the Film Festival aren’t free – but they’re not unreasonably priced, either. Regular movies are $10, and sneak previews are $15. Around here we like to say that it “brings a little Hollywood to Traverse City!”

IMG_2782 copy - CopyMike Norton spent 25 years as newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations manager at Traverse City Tourism. An avid cyclist, kayaker and hiker, he lives in the village of Old Mission.

Unusual Michigan Festivals to Put on Your Summer Bucket List

Michigan is home to a number of “off the beaten path” festivals you won’t find anywhere else.  From Elvisfest to Cheeseburger fest, and everything in-between, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy. Here are just a few of the most unique Michigan festivals to add to your summer bucket list. For more, visit michigan.org/events.

lumberjackJack Pine Lumberjack Show
May 16 – September 1, Mackinaw City
Come cheer the Lumberjacks in this fast paced competition of chopping, chain-sawing, pole climbing, logrolling and more. You’ll see turn of the century skills of the lumberjack in action!

Train Expo 2014
June 20-22, Owosso
See the very best in steam locomotives from all over the U.S. as well as vintage WWII airplanes and some of the finest in automobiles from across the generations, all in Owosso! A giant midway, an auto race and the history of transportation will be available for the family to see, ride, and experience for this unforgettable weekend.

Marquette Mountain Mud
June 21, Marquette
Enjoy natural river showers via snow guns, river crossings, a huge mound of snow to climb, a giant slippery slide, plenty of other challenging  obstacles, and fresh mud to run and crawl through.  Enjoy a scenic chairlift ride to the top of Marquette Mountain, then complete your chosen 4-mile or 2-mile race to the finish line at the chalet. The courses will lead you through a set of switchbacks and various obstacles along your 550 foot descent  to the finish!

PIC SHOWS: FROM SHOOT: Chough bakery, Padstow.Michigan Pasty Fest
June 28, Calumet
Celebrate the Keweenaw’s “Pasty” history with a parade, children’s games, a pasty sale, live music and dancing with the Pasty Bake-Off for the coveted Copper Pasty Award. Event held at Agassiz Park.

Cedar Polka Fest
July 3-6, Cedar
Held yearly in Cedar, Michigan, under the big tent on the tennis courts. Highlights include a parade on Saturday at noon, softball tournament, a polka mass and polka under the big, big tent with the big names of polka.

Michigan ElvisFest
July 11-12, Ypsilanti
The Annual Michigan ElvisFest brings the best of Michigan’s Elvis impersonators together!  It’s just around the corner – Friday, July 11 and Saturday, July 12.

Maker-Faire-Detroit

Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford

Maker Faire Detroit
July 26-27, The Henry Ford
Tinker, hack and mingle with over 400 makers during the ultimate festival of invention and creativity at the world’s original Maker mecca. You won’t believe your eyes!

Fish Sandwich Festival
August 1 -3, Bay Port, MI
Fresh fish sandwiches are the stars of the show during this festival! Free entertainment, parade, classic car show, bingo, kid’s games, raffles. Check out website link for full event schedule.

Michigan Pirate Festival
August 4-10, Grand Haven
Michigan Pirate Festival’s 8th year in western Michigan is this August 4-10, 2014, in Grand Haven. This year’s event will include pirate hunters, re-enactors, literary and fantasy characters, encampments, and pirates from more eras than ever before. Come out and see for yourself what the excitement is all about!

Rubber Ducky Festival
August 16, Bellaire
See two-thousand rubber ducks race down the Intermediate River! Also, visit the Arts and Craft show at Duckling Park on Broad Street with kids games, sidewalk sales and parade.

005The US-127 National Yard Sale
August 7-10, Hudson, MI
Dubbed the “World’s Largest Yard Sale”, this unique festival spans across five states!  Starting in Gadsden, Alabama and ending just north of Hudson, this national event is something bargain hunters can’t afford to miss (pun intended).

 Cheeseburger in Caseville
August 8-17, Caseville, MI
This family-oriented, 10-day event offers daily music, homemade boat races, parades, classic car shows, and more!  Not to mention the many different varieties of cheeseburgers you can enjoy as you spend time on the shore of picturesque Lake Huron.  Purchase your Cheeseburger Button to get into all of the events for the entire 10 days!

If you’re a cheeseburger fanatic, this festival is the one for you. If you’re more of a barbecue lover, be sure to check out Caseville’s Country Rib Stock Festival happening June 27 – 29th!

Blueberry-Festival-2012-043-1024x768Montrose Blueberry Festival
August 14-17, Montrose, MI
The Montrose Blueberry Festival is a weekend full of fun for the whole family!  Come enjoy delicious blueberry pancakes and pies while you sit back, relax, and watch the parade go by. This annual festival includes a flea market, carnival, 5k/8k road race, and much more.  Make your way to Montrose for a weekend you won’t forget!

For more celebrations dedicated to the blueberry, head out to Marquette’s Blueberry Festival on July 25th or the National Blueberry Festival in South Haven August 7th-10th!

Edmore Potato Festival
August 22-24, Edmore, MI
Celebrate all things ‘potato’ with a farmer’s market, parade,  rodeo, fireworks and more!

If you’re looking for more quirky and unique Michigan festivals throughout the year, be sure to keep the Trenary Outhouse Races or Potterville’s Gizzardfest on your radar!

Do you know of any other unique festivals happening around the state this summer? 

 

Beauty and History at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival

Michigan lighthouses bring history, beauty, and uniqueness to our coastline. Each year, visitors can take an in-depth tour of some of these lighthouses at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival. This year’s festival will be held October 10th- 13th in Alpena, MI. Guest blogger Peggy Allen of the Michigan Historical Center walks us through what visitors can expect at the upcoming festival. 

Visiting the coastline of Lake Huron, stopping at a Michigan state park, fond memories can be made so easily.

Although modern navigational technology has made lighthouses nearly obsolete, some still do serve as a guiding light for ships on the Great Lakes. More than 115 lighthouses dot Michigan’s Great Lakes coastline providing unique opportunities for visitors to learn about our maritime history.

Tawas Lighthouse Tawas Point State Park and Lighthouse in East Tawas invites you to experience the sights of Michigan.  This fall, Oct. 10-13, brings the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival to the sunrise side of Michigan.  Visitors can explore many lighthouses from short to tall, white to stripes, all found along the great Lake Huron up to the Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

Headquarters for the 18th Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival is in Alpena.  At the APLEX Event Center there will be over 100 maritime vendors, artists, authors and more.  This half-way point allows you to rest up, listen to presenters and talk with other lighthouse enthusiasts.  There is plenty to do and see for every family member.

When traveling north on US-23 your autumn view is spectacular with painted foliage and pristine water guiding your way past several historic lighthouses.

Stopping at Tawas Point is a highlight. The land curves out into the blue water as the lighthouse nestles between Lake Huron and Tawas Bay.  This allows a majestic view of Michigan’s sunrises and sunsets with plenty of wildlife along the way.

This festival is the only time during the year that visitors will be able to tour the Guest Keeper Quarters above the museum.  Guest Keepers themselves will be able to show you around the entire lighthouse and give you the inside scoop on staying in the lighthouse and becoming a guest keeper yourself.

Tawas LighthouseEntering the park, Tawas Point Lighthouse will guide your way.  The gift store is an historical landmark itself and was built in 1906. There you can purchase unique souvenirs to mark your visit, as well as your ticket into the lighthouse.

At the lighthouse itself, you will experience the history that helped make Michigan. You can learn about past keepers, their family life, the trials of keeping the light burning and reasons why there are so many lighthouses on the Great Lakes. You are welcome to walk in and explore the space, where you can touch as well as look as you learn about life at the lighthouse.

Tawas LighthouseYou may also climb the 85 steps up to the lens room and see the original 4th order Fresnel lens that still guides ships today.  The 360-degree view from the top reveals the beauty of this point. The significance of our lighthouses in years past can be discovered over many visits – the importance of keeping lighthouses in our future can be found in just one.

For more information on the Tawas Point Lighthouse, including tours, the lightkeeper program and upcoming events, go to www.michigan.gov/tawaslighthouse.

Peggy Allen of the Michigan Historical Center has been the caregiver to the Tawas Point Lighthouse and grounds for the past decade. She works to renovate, up-keep and introduce many events and opportunities for guests to experience the many facets of Tawas Point Lighthouse and State Park.  

Will you be at this year’s Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival? Let us know!