Traverse City’s annual National Cherry Festival is a riotous summer blowout that runs eight days and serves up 150 events. If you can’t get to every one of them (and who could?), be sure to check out these five must-do events.  We scoured this terrific Traverse City event’s schedule looking for the fun, the free, the traditional, the quirky—what you should be doing during festival week. For more, visit the events page at

Grand Traverse Ottawa and Chippewa Band Pow Wow

Feel the drums and watch the dance as Traverse City’s local Ottawa and Chippewa Band celebrate their heritage and that of the reason. With all the extras: traditional costumes, music and the chance to taste Native American cuisine, do not miss this opportunity if you can help it.

Where: Festival Open Space, Grandview Parkway and Union Street

When: 12 p.m. Thursday, July 7

Classic Movies at the State Theater

If the cool, dark seats of a movie theater sound better than the hot sun of a Northern Michigan summer, escape to the celluloid fantasies of the past and take in a free movie at Traverse City’s State Theater. The old movie house feel of the State, renovated by Michael Moore and home of the Traverse City Film Festival, enhances the fun of screwball comedies like Operation Petticoat and Pillow Talk, but if you only stop by for one movie during the festival, make it the excellent courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder. Seven Academy Awards, including Best Actor for lawyer James Stewart; it’s worth your time. The week’s schedule is below.


The State Theater, 233 E Front St.


10 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of the festival

Cherry Pie (Sara Lee Cherry Pie Eating Contest and Grand Traverse Pie Company Make and Bake)

The truth is there are many places you could get your cherry pie fix at the festival. Very few of those places are free; these two are. Only the winners of the pie eating contest will receive prizes, but all participants get that free slice of pie. Registration is free. The Make and Bake event with Grand Traverse Pie Company lets you design your own pie and bake it; the rest is up to you. Both of these events have limited space, though, so show up early and hungry.


Festival Open Space, Grandview Parkway and Union Street


Sara Lee Cherry Pie Eating Contest5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the festival

Grand Traverse Pie Company Make and Bake1 p.m. Monday through Friday, July 6 through 10

Bed Race

Weird and, yes, even wacky don’t begin to describe it. Contestants dress in costumes and push or ride a specially designed bed down Traverse City’s Front Street. Awards will be given for speed, naturally, but also for costume and design. Watching this offbeat competition is sure to be a treat, but if you’re itching to feel the wind in your sheets, rules and registration can be found here.


Front Street, Between Park Street and Cass Street


5 p.m. Thursday, July 9, before the Junior Royal Parade

The Air Show

The Air Show is a Cherry Festival fixture, they’ve always gone hand in hand. Gaze up in wonder at the aerial acrobatics and watch demonstrations of the latest the aircraft world has to offer. View the show in style from the top of the Park Place Hotel at the Air Show Gala—tickets are $50 a head—or just look up for free. Still not enough? Stop by the Air Show Open House between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday, July 3 for games, food and a pilot meet and greet starting at 6 p.m. The Open House will be at the Northwestern Michigan College Air Hangar, 2550 Aero Park Rd. at Cherry Capital Airport, where admission is only $2.


The sky above Traverse City, you can watch from anywhere with a view.


1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 4 and 5


Read more about a day at the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City