From Mackinac Island’s Lilac Festival to Traverse City’s Cherry Festival, there are plenty of Northern Michigan summer events returning for the 2021 season. Dive in for the can’t-miss details.

Featured in the June 2021 issue of Traverse Magazine. Subscribe.

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival // June 4–13 // Mackinac Island
The 73rd annual celebration will offer a combination of in-person and virtual events, including the Lilac Queen coronation, Lilac Festival poster reveal, Michigan cornhole, lilac book launch, in addition to walking tours and planting sessions with lilac expert Jeff Young. Island businesses will also have various activities throughout the 10-day festival. The West Michigan Bootscooter Dance, Mackin-Paw Dog Day and Grand Stationary Parade have been canceled. Find updates and current events at

National Cherry Festival // July 3–10 // Traverse City
The National Cherry Festival is planning a full slate of events for its 95th celebration, including the popular Arts & Crafts Fair and Old Town Car Show (both are typically held on Union Street, but will be set in a more socially distanced location this year). Ultimate Air Dogs and The Great American Duck race will also return, F&M Park will host kids’ events and the Open Space will be the festival’s home base. However, due to safety regulations, The Bayside Music Stage and airshow featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will not take place. “We recognize that not every-
one is ready to gather in crowds yet, so we will be hosting in-person, virtual and hybrid events to meet everyone where they are. And every in-person event will be following state and local guidelines to ensure the safety of all involved,” says Executive Director Kat Paye. One fun 2020 pivot, the Very Cherry Porch Parade, will continue this year. Community members decorate their porches, yards or windows and register (free) to be included on a parade map that locals and visitors can use to view the displays at their leisure.

Parallel 45 Summer Theatre Festival // July 8–August 1 // Traverse City
The professional theater company in Traverse City will produce a three-week season featuring artists from around the world. The 2021 season, with shows hosted outdoors with pod seating at Civic Center Park, will feature “The Sound of Music” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” based on the comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles Schulz and a P45 Play Reading Series featuring three plays in one day. Shows will alternate daily and tickets are available at

Polka Fest // August 26–29 // Cedar
The 39th annual Cedar Polka Fest, a classic Leelanau County event hosted by the Cedar Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled to kick off on Thursday, Aug. 26; delayed from the event’s original dates of June 17–20 in the hope that it will be safe to gather later in the summer. The festival is known for Polka music, attracting and showcasing some of the best bands in America. Vendors offer Polish food and beer, and there are plenty of games for kids (Saturday afternoon is Kids Day). Organizers hope to debut a craft fair and four-mile race in 2021 (both had been planned for the 2020 fest, which was canceled due to the pandemic). Proceeds from the festival fund everything from scholarships for area students to the local fire department.

As these dates approach, some events may be modified or canceled to protect the safety of both event organizers and attendees. Check online to confirm details.