Cherry growing is more than just a commercial farming process. It’s a way of life that brings together the farmers and whole communities to celebrate cherry growing, life and old traditions.
In the United States, the best known of the cherry festivals is the National or Michigan Cherry Festival, held every July in Traverse City, Michigan – which is also known as the cherry capital of the world. The first festival was held in 1926 and it has grown over the decades into an eight-day long event with over 500,000 attendees. The tradition, however, is older and dates back to circa 1910 when a religious ‘blessing of the blossom’ ceremony was held to pray for a good harvest. Later, the Traverse City business community partnered with the farmers to promote the industry and create tourism out of the event.
More than 150 events are held in the Michigan festivals and there’s something for everyone; children, seniors, sports lovers, etc. There are parades, air-shows, pie eating competitions, band competitions, craft stalls, carnival rides, pet stands, events for special needs people, seniors golf and bowling, fireworks, elephant rides, turtle races, and, of course, the customary crowning of the Cherry Queen.
For those who cannot personally attend the events, there is an online shopping site that features a range of items including recipe books, children’s games, themed clothing, tote bags and accessories.
Cherry growing is a worldwide activity and consequently cherry festivals take place in many countries around the world. In Spain, the centuries-old city of Alfamate in Southern coastal region is surrounded by rich agricultural land that produces many crops including cherries. The Alfamate cherries are known for their size and tastiness. Every year they are celebrated by the 1,600 residents and visitors in a cherry festival held under a huge marquee, to the sound of traditional music and folklore.
Further into central Europe, Witzenhausen Cherry Festival has been taking place for over 40 years. This north-eastern German town, located in the in the charming, wooded areas of the River Werra valley, enjoys the white cherry blossoms in the springtime and takes particular pride in its cherry wines during the harvest season festival.
The old Turkish city of Tekirdag is well known for kofte meatballs, sunflowers and cherry fruit. Situated on the Marmara Sea every June the residents host cherry festivals to celebrate the summer and the cherry harvest.
Across the Mediterranean, on the slopes Atlas Mountains of Morocco, lies an ancient walled town called Sefrou, close to the city of Fez. The temperate climate and rich mountain soils make it an ideal place for cherry growing and every year joyful celebrations of cherries are held. The Sefrou Festival attracts festival goers from far and wide to enjoy the juicy fruit, lively music, colorful costumes, dance events and torchlight parades.
At the other end of the continent, the city of Ficksburg in South Africa hosts it’s annual cherry festivals every November. Located in the Orange Free State and bordering Lesotho, Ficksburg produces 95% of South Africa’s cherries. The Ficksburg Festival comprises fruit pickings and tasting, competitions, carnival parades, family entertainment and fireworks.
If you are a cherry lover you may want to read our article on cherries health benefits. You will be happy to find cherries not only taste great but are one of the most healthy fruits you can eat