National Cherry Festival 2017 Family Events

Traverse City‘s National Cherry Festival 2017 hosts several free events for the entire family to enjoy. Whether it’s getting a glimpse of the beautiful cherry orchards, watching the festive parades, or even enjoying a game of bowling, there is no shortage of fun activities for both parents and kids. The National Cherry Festival is one of the most highly anticipated Northern Michigan events of the year, and this year’s festival promises another wonderful experience. Check out some of these family-friendly events at National Cherry Festival 2017!

Orchard Tour and More

Visit a Leelanau County orchard for a first-hand glimpse at the sources of Northern Michigan’s famous cherries. Guided tours of the 100-acre research farm at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station include views of the orchards and samples of brand new cherry products. Also, there are plenty of activities for the kids: a petting zoo, a poster coloring contest, and more. This free event runs from July 3-7, going from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.

Depot Neighborhood Picnic

The Depot Neighborhood Picnic takes place in Traverse City’s beautiful Hull Park. Relax and enjoy some food by the lake, or get involved with the numerous activities: face painting, a scavenger hunt, and a watermelon-eating contest. Live music will be played as well. The picnic takes place July 7th and starts at noon. The event is free; however, the provided food and beverages, including hot dogs and chips, cost $1 for kids and $3 for adults. All proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity, Grand Traverse Refrigeration, and the Children’s Garden.

7th Annual Cherry Idol Competition

Who will be the Idol of Cherry Festival 2017? This popular competition is great fun for both the contestants and the audience. Qualifiers are split into four categories: Adult (18 and older), Young Adult (15-17), Teen (12-14), and Youth (8-11). To audition, you must sing 90 seconds of a song of your choice without any backup. Those who move on will get to compete in the finals! Auditions take place on Friday, July 7 at 10 a.m, and the finals are Saturday, July 8 at 2 p.m. All phases of the competition will take place on the Lay’s Cherry Blast Stage at the Open Space Park Central. To compete, an application must be submitted before auditions.

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Airshow

The Thunderbirds from the U.S. Navy are performing for free at Cherry Festival 2017! The Thunderbirds will demonstrate their daring aeronautical moves over the West Grand Traverse Bay. They will be joined by the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station of Traverse City, U.S. Army Golden Knights, and by Kevin Copeland. Shows are scheduled on July 1 and July 2, at 1:15 p.m. each day.

Ultimate Air Dogs

If you are a family that loves dogs, you will not want to miss this. Ultimate Air Dogs is a competition between trained local dogs as they attempt to jump large distances into a pool. The competition takes place at various times July 6–8. The finals are on July 8 at 2 p.m. All phases of the competition will be located at the volleyball courts of West End Beach.

The Pet Show

If watching pets isn’t enough and you want to show yours off, bring your pet to the Kids’ Pet Show! Participants ages 3-12 can strut their pets around and qualify them for a number of flattering awards. This free event is on July 4 at 10 a.m at F&M Park. Pet registration opens up at 9 a.m. the same morning.


Three sponsored parades are happening over the course of Cherry Festival 2017: The Consumers Energy Heritage Parade (July 4 at 7 p.m.); The Touchstone Energy Junior Royale Parade (July 6 at 6:30 p.m.); and the DTE Energy Foundation Cherry Royale Parade (July 8 at 11:15 a.m.) All parades will start at Front Street and make their way around the city. The parades are always a highlight of the festival, so make sure to bring the entire family!

National Cherry Festival


Two fantastic nights of fireworks are promised at National Cherry Festival 2017: Independence Day and the Festival Finale (July 8). Fireworks begin at 10:30 p.m and can be viewed on the south end of West Grand Traverse Bay near the Festival Open Space Park, Clinch Park Marina, Bryant Park, and the beaches of the West End.

The Big Wheel Race

Kids ages 3 to 6 can race against each other in one of the festival’s most favored events. This free event takes place July 4 at 10 a.m in the Grand Traverse Mall parking lot. Registration for the race starts at 9 a.m.

Arts & Crafts Show

Kids ages 4 to 12 can let their imaginations flow and create artistic works related to Cherry Festival 2017. This free event is happening July 2 at 11 a.m at Union Street between Grandview Parkway and State Street.

Sandcastle Contests

Show off your creativity and enjoy the beaches at the Family Sand Sculpture Contest! This free event is on July 2 at 6 p.m on the Senior Center Beach. Families and kids 13 and up can take part in the competition. A Kids’ Sand Sculpture Contest for children 3 to 12 will take place at the Senior Center beach on July 7 at 9 a.m.

Kids’ Bubble Gum Blow

The Kid’s Bubble Gum Blow is one of the most exciting kid’s events at National Cherry Festival 2017. Whoever blows the biggest bubble gets an awesome prize! This free event takes place July 3 at 10 a.m. at the F&M Park. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. that morning; kids age 4 to 12 can participate.

Cherry Pins & Pizza

Come on down to Lucky Jack’s Bowling Alley to enjoy a day of pizza, pop, and bowling with the entire family on July 4 at 11 a.m. Food and games cost $1 each.

Kids’ Pie Eating Contest

The Adult Cherry Pie Eating Contest is one of the festival’s most beloved events, but did you know there’s a contest for kids too? Kids ages 5 to 12 can smother their faces with delicious cherry pie as they compete to see who can finish their pie first. The contest takes place July 3, 4, and 6 at the F&M park, starting at 1 p.m. each day.

Kids’ Bicycle Rodeo

Do your kids have what it takes to win the Bicycle Rodeo? Kids can compete in this thrilling obstacle course in three different age groups: 5–6, 7–8, and 9–10. Boys and girls have separate races. The rodeo takes place July 5 at 10 a.m in the Grand Traverse Mall parking lot. The event is free, but kids must bring their own bikes and helmets. Registration starts that morning at 9 a.m.

Kids’ Chalk Art Contest

Do you love drawing with chalk? Bring the kids to the Chalk Art Contest! Children ages 5 to 12 can let their imaginations run loose on the giant cement wall in the Festival Open Space Park. This free event is happening July 7 at 1 p.m.

More National Cherry Festival 2017

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