Sure Traverse City’s National Cherry Festival serves up carnival staples, like a ferris wheel and a man in suspenders who offers children balloon swords in exchange for $1, but don’t expect your taste buds to confuse this summer fest with any other jamboree.

In addition to the carnival rides, balloon animals and, of course, cherries, the 2009 festival introduced organic cuisine into the array. Now festival-goers can find organic cherry salsa, loose leaf teas and pecan cherry cinnamon rolls among the elephant ears, corndogs and frozen lemonade stands.

Sleeping Bear Gourmet, a new, local powerhouse, is behind organic cuisine’s debut at the National Cherry Festival.

The company is comprised of six local food manufacturers—Light of Day Organic Teas, Food for Thought, Naturally Nutty, Higher Grounds Trading Co., Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate and Stone House Bread—who take pride in their stance to create unique and local organic products while remaining environmentally friendly.

“This is really uncharacteristic of what has been seen at the Cherry Festival,” said Angela Macke, of Light of Day Organic Teas. “It’s usually all cherry syrup and fast food.”

Despite being successful on their own, the six business owners decided to join forces and use the festival as a test-run for their enterprise, said Macke.

Timothy Fitzgerald Young, of Food For Thought, is confident of the business model because most of the suppliers are good friends and share the same mission. “We have always helped each other out and had meetings, this is just the first time we’ve formalized it,” he said as he popped what looked to be a chocolate covered cherry by Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate into his mouth. “We’ve all been leaders in the organic industry for a long time selling high-end gourmet items. There are not a lot of competitors in our categories.”

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Photo(s) by Stephanie Goldberg