Rolling hills, tons of lakes and more farms than you’d even want to think about counting. It’s not the visual you usually get when thinking about the state (GM doesn’t have any plants up here), but that’s my Michigan.
In my Michigan, you’re more likely to find a glut of lawyers, orthopedic specialists and retired bankers rather than blue collar workers. Traverse City is the kind of place you retire to, a place where not much changes, but also one of the most beautiful places on earth. It was even a contender for “Best Place to Live” in Money magazine in 2007.
It’s primarily a tourist destination, and business booms between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. But the beautiful lakes and beaches (I swear they exist that far north) don’t attract as many dollars as our farms.
You see, we’re famous for cherries, and cherries is what we do. We’re the “cherry capital of the world” and have a festival to prove it. Each July, 300,000 people descend on our town of 15,000 for the most ridiculous display of cherry love you can imagine for the National Cherry Festival. Cherry pit spitting contests. Cherry pie bake-offs. Cherry-eating contests. Cherry newsletters. And of course, the Cherry Queen pageant.
We are basically a haven for the hungry during the summer months. You can always spot the tourists by the pound of fudge they’re carrying around (which is where the not-so-affectionate nickname “Fudgie” comes from) and the “TRAVERSE CITY” that is printed across their t-shirts. While we stand back and poke fun at them, they’re actually our livelihood. Without the tourism provided by our cherries, there probably wouldn’t be much else going for the town at all.
This year, our cherries even made it on Good Morning America, although in a different form of food. A local ice cream shop, Moomer’s, was featured in their contest “The Best Scoops in America” and won. The winning flavor, Cherries Moo-bilee, was an obvious favorite and showcased our awesome fruit.
While the winning flavor is just fine, Moomer’s is known for much more than that. All the ice cream at the shop is handmade from the dairy farm next door, and it’s almost impossible to get a cone in the summer without waiting for 45 minutes. Despite the smell — you can see cows while you finish your ice cream — the lines have been known to wind around the parking lot and along the road.
While cherries, ice cream and the Cherry Fest are great for the tourists, residents like our other summer festival a bit more: the Traverse City Film Festival. The Festival, founded by Michael Moore, runs from the end of July until the first week in August, when the really exciting stuff happens in town. There are celebrity sightings (someone saw Johnny Depp at the Cracker Barrel) and tons of awesome films to see.
With the arrival of the Film Fest, we’ve become a bit of a bipolar place. Even with all the celebrities milling around (I once ran into the voice of Marge Simpson at the grocery store), we’re still just a small town. People don’t get excited anymore when Michael Moore sits next to them at lunch, but the Olive Garden that moved in last summer made the front page.