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.

Pure Michigan Fourth of July 2014 Activities Roundup

 Fourth of July fireworks, festivals and more have already started happening across Michigan, and many will be out and about celebrating the Fourth of July both before and after the big day! With so many festive events and plenty of Michigan campground space available, there’s still time to plan a great Independence Day adventure. Below is just a sampling of celebrations and quick weekend getaways you can still book!

For a complete listing of events in Michigan visit www.michigan.org

Fireworks4th of July Celebration | St. Ignace
Combining the nostalgic sentiment of a small-town celebration with the picturesque backdrop of Lake Huron and Mackinac Island makes the 4th of July in St. Ignace something special. Watch the parade at 1pm, enjoy Kiwanis Kid’s Games and a community picnic at 2pm, and watch the fireworks over Moran Bay at dusk. Let us show you patriotism, St. Ignace style!

Fourth of July Parade & Fireworks | Port Austin
One of the Thumb’s largest parades is hosted annually in beautiful Port Austin. Entertainment at Veteran’s Waterfront Park, and fireworks at dusk over the harbor will encompass a wonderful evening of red, white and blue fun on Independence Day.

4th of July Fireworks | Grand Haven
Grand Haven’s annual 4th of July Fireworks display lights up the night sky after the evening’s showing of the Grand Haven Musical Fountain.  Come see the sights and sounds of summer as you kick back and enjoy an exciting fireworks display.

Independence Day Concert | Saint Joseph
Join this joyous celebration of America’s birthday!  Complete with traditional patriotic songs, Tchaikovsky’s rousing 1812 Overture and, of course, a spectacular fireworks show! This free concert will be at the Shadowland Pavilion at Silver Beach beginning at 9pm.

July 4th Fireworks Cruise | Muskegon
See the spectacular fireworks from the water with the best view in town on this fun cruise for the whole family! This unique cruise will take you on Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan and includes an all American picnic buffet. $55 adults, $45 kids under 12. Service fee added. Call-ahead reservations required.

Star Spangled Fourth | Mackinac Island
Celebrate America’s Independence on Mackinac Island. Patriotic fun in oh so many ways … visit Fort Mackinac for the 38 Gun Salute, Soldier demonstrations, dancing, canon firing and more from one of the only two remaining all original Revolutionary War Forts in America. Then feast at the All American Picnic at Fort Mackinac catered by Grand Hotel. Mackinac Island’s Fire Department is the host to the Fun & Games at Windermere Point. There are excellent fireworks to be watched on the water or from the shoreline on the west end of Main Street to Grand Hotel. They start at dusk, which is usually between 9:30pm-10pm. Most bring blankets to stretch out on the shoreline, others bring folding chairs to watch from the school yard and guests of Grand Hotel may watch from the longest summer porch in the world.

4th of July Fireworks | Traverse City
Enjoy a spectacular 4th of July fireworks display beginning at dark with great viewing from anywhere along the West Bay shoreline in beautiful Traverse City.  The fireworks will be from 10 p.m. – 11 p.m. so make sure you show up early to get a good spot!

Light Up the Lake Fireworks | South Haven
Watch a spectacular fireworks display and listen to the Light Up The Lake soundtrack live on SuperHits 103.7 COSY-FM! The fireworks shoot off synchronized to the music and are set off from the pier at dusk. Find a cozy viewing location along the South Haven Lake Michigan shoreline on the beaches, the riverfront park located near the South Side Marina along the Black River, Kid’s Corner on Monroe Boulevard, or in a boat! Parade will be held on July 4 through downtown.

4th of July | Les Cheneaux
Enjoy the spectacular view of fireworks over Cedarville Bay from the Cedarville’s downtown waterfront park or the lawn of the Great Lakes Boat Building School on July 4. Earlier that day, a parade, kids games, hot dogs and burgers, Up in Smoke BBQ, races and contests, and more wind down into early evening with music on the bay by Dance Commander DJ and a Jersey Mud eating contest.

Appldore_IV MIORGBBQ Dinner Sail | Bay City
Set sail this Independence Day! Make sure you have your ticket and hop aboard the family friendly Appledore IV for a fun and relaxing evening of cruising along the Saginaw River and sailing in the Saginaw Bay. While on board, guests will enjoy a delicious and casual barbecue meal catered by a local restaurant.  The voyage departs from downtown Bay City, Wenonah Park and sails rain or shine.  Tickets are non-refundable.

Friday Night at the Museums | St. Ignace
From 7-9pm, these fun-filled evenings in July and August will have something for everyone! As you stroll along the streets in downtown St. Ignace on a Friday night you will see a variety of activities to watch and/or participate in. The Museum of Ojibwa Culture will have Native American drumming and singing and you can also enjoy music and storytelling at Fort de Buade Museum. Friday nights is in July and August.

Independence Fest | Clarkston
This is an all-day event from 11am-11pm filled with fun activities for the whole family. Activities include visiting a mermaid, an extreme zip line, kid’s games, inflatables, a craft show, live entertainment, and much more! After a great day of entertainment you can kick back, relax and watch the fireworks show starting at 10 p.m. Parking and shuttle fees.

Volkslaufe / The People’s Race 2014 | Frankenmuth
Head to Frankenmuth for a variety of races on Independence Day!  Race location is Heritage Park on Weiss

Thunder Bay Maritime Festival | Alpena
A spaghetti dinner, music and fireworks show will be on July 3rd. Bring the whole family to this free annual community event hosted by the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Tour tall ships, research vessels and fishing boats docked along the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Trail. Enjoy live music on the main stage, kids games and crafts, see the small boat workshop, taste some local whitefish, explore the shipwreck century exhibits and more! Festivities start eachyear at 500 W. Fletcher Street following the 4th of July parade in downtown Alpena.

4th of July in Boyne City
Boyne City’s 4th of July Festival is always held on July 4th, regardless of the day of the week!  All events are held at Veterans Memorial Park on Lake Street unless otherwise noted. Make your way up to Boyne City for the annual parade and fireworks show!

As June comes to a close, so does National Camping Month. But don’t put away that tent just yet! Check out these great campgrounds that still have space for the Fourth of July weekend and beyond. 

Brighton-BishopLakeBeachPathBrighton Recreation Area
Consisting of nearly 5,000 acres of rolling woods and meadows interspersed with lakes, streams and marshes. There are several campgrounds, beaches and hiking and mountain bike trails. The majority of the area is open to hunting, fishing and most winter activities including snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Bishop Lake beach offers an ADA accessible path which will allow all of our visitor’s access to the lake for swimming and several of our new picnic areas. We have added a sand volleyball court and horse shoe pits. The park also offers canoe,kayak and paddle boat rentals. Bishop Lake boat launch now offers an ADA accessible EZ Dock launch. The park also features complete equestrian facilities, including a riding stable with rental horses, campground, staging area and 18 miles of bridle trails. Metal detecting area.

Palms Book State Park
Palms Book is a rewarding side trip for the vacationer touring the Upper Peninsula, for here can be seen one of Michigan’s alluring natural attractions — Kitch-iti-kipi, The Big Spring. Two hundred feet across, the 40-foot deep Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring. Over 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone. The flow continues throughout the year at a constant 45 degree Fahrenheit. By means of a self-operated observation raft, visitors are guided to vantage points overlooking fascinating underwater features and fantasies. Ancient tree trunks, lime-encrusted branches and fat trout appear suspended in nothingness as they slip through crystal waters far below. Clouds of sand kept in constant motion by gushing waters create ever-changing shapes and forms, a challenge to the imagination of young and old alike.

Fayette Historic State Park
Fayette townsite is a restored iron smelting company town (1867-1891). Once a bustling industrial community, Fayette offers visitors the unmatched serenity of a Lake Michigan harbor, white cliffs and verdant forests. This well-preserved museum village recalls another time when it was a noisy, dirty company town with an immigrant population that shared daily hardships, joys and sorrows. Three miles of shoreline on Big Bay De Noc. Park amenities include: sixty-one semi-modern campsites, boat camping, fully furnished, cottage that sleeps up to ten people, picnicking, beach, playground, fishing, and boat launch. Five miles of hiking trails overlooking town from limestone cliffs. Groomed for cross country skiing, perfect for the beginner.

Hog Island Point

Photo courtesy of Chris Blake Photography

Muskallonge Lake State Park
159 site campground located between Muskallonge Lake and Lake Superior. Activities include swimming, boating, picnicking, agate & rock hunting on Lake Superior shoreline, camping, hunting and fishing. You can also do some wild berry picking while at the state park.

Newaygo State Park
Newaygo State Park is a 99-site rustic campground and day use area sitting atop 20-foot embankments overlooking the Hardy Dam Pond, a six-mile flooding of the Muskegon River. The campground noted for its large, private sites and scenic beauty with a 20-30 foot forested buffer between sites.

Ionia Recreation Area
Ionia Recreation Area offers you 149 campsites (100 modern and 49 rustic), 4,500 acres that offer a swimming beach, good fishing in Sessions Lake, camping, hunting, 3.5 miles of hiking trails looped within the park, nine miles designated for mountain bike trails, 15 miles of horse trails and a boat launch. We also have three designated trail loops for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling when there is four inches or more of snow. Additional amenities include a dog trail area and metal detecting area.

What do you have planned for the 4th of July in Michigan? Tag your Michigan fireworks photos with #PureMichigan on Twitter and Instagram. 

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?