The Festival Foundation is the team behind some of Northern Michigan’s most notable events and they need your help in preserving these beloved Traverse City traditions. Learn how you can support this project and additional Northern Michigan nonprofits featured in our 2021 GIVE issue.
The day after Cherry Festival 2021, a quiet had returned. The music and chatter of crowds were gone, replaced by the sound of brooms on pavement, the rattle of fencing being taken down and the thumping of signs and barricades as they got loaded into trucks to be carted back to the warehouse to wait for another year.

But back at the Festival Foundation headquarters, the tiny staff of five was not only already at work on next year’s festival, they were also busy laying track for their very next event, Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge in November.

“We don’t view what we do as event planning,” says Kat Paye, executive director of the Festival Foundation. “Rather, we’re maintaining truly special traditions.”

Planning the memorable, epic events our community flocks to year after year is the focus and passion of the crew at the Festival Foundation, a 501c(3) nonprofit that is solely responsible for pulling off the National Cherry Festival, Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge, the CherryT Ball Drop and the Leapin’ Leprechaun 5K.

“We know people view these races and events as fun parties, but we believe these events in our communities are touchstones and traditions,” Paye says.

For the past 96 years, they’ve been the guiding hands behind not only the parades, concerts, pie-eating contests and other Cherry Fest fun happenings that delight 500,000 attendees each year, but also have been quietly fundraising behind the scenes to provide scholarships for the young women who compete as princesses and for the title of National Cherry Queen.

With their taking on of the Iceman Cometh Challenge, in addition to hosting 5,000 riders and 10,000 spectators, the Festival Foundation raises funds to provide Michigan Youth Cycling scholarships, which aim to make a difference in a young person’s life by supporting the pursuit of their cycling and educational dreams.

Donation support is simple—the new Growers Program is a monthly donation to help support the needs of the Festival Foundation. Whether you choose to contribute to their scholarship programs, general fund or the bricks and mortar, your accumulated donations will go toward preserving traditions for years to come and earning a level in the Founders’ Circle. The minimum monthly donation is $5. To get started, visit

This Article Was First Featured in Northern Michigan GIVE 2021

Read more Northern Michigan nonprofit stories and learn how to donate and volunteer in the free edition of MyNorth GIVE 2021. You can also preview and purchase our digital issues Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine or subscribe and get Traverse delivered to your door each month.

Northern Michigan GIVE 2021 by MyNorth

Photo by MyNorth Media

Photo(s) by Taylor Brown