This Beautiful U.S. Town Is Known as the `Cherry Capital of the World`

Written by Erica Scassellati
Published: February 26, 2024
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The United States has no shortage of beautiful hidden gem towns. Nestled between the East and West arms of Lake Michigan‘s Grand Traverse Bay lies Traverse City. The name might not ring any bells, but this Michigan town is known as the “Cherry Capital of the World” and hosts an annual fest that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Traverse City, Michigan Is Known as the ‘Cherry Capital of the World’

Traverse City is a beautiful town in Michigan nicknamed the “Cherry Capital of the World.” The city’s population was 15,678 as of the 2020 census.

Farms near Traverse City are known for producing tart cherries. The first cherry trees were planted on the Old Mission Peninsula in the mid-1800s.

Cherry production in this area of Michigan transformed into a thriving industry. According to Leelanau.com, the Grand Traverse Region produces over 50 percent of Michigan’s annual tart cherry crop. That’s about 100 to 120 million pounds of cherries per year.

While Michigan is known for tart cherries, the Grand Traverse Region also produces about 50 million pounds of sweet cherries per year.

Traverse City Michigan

Traverse City is a beautiful town in Michigan known as the Cherry Capital of the World.

©iStock.com/Gary Ennis

History of Michigan’s Cherry Capital

The Traverse City region’s history with cherries dates back to the mid-1800s when Presbyterian missionary Peter Dougherty planted cherry trees on Old Mission Peninsula (near modern-day Traverse City), writes cherryfestival.org.

To the surprise of nearby residents, Dougherty’s cherry trees flourished, thanks to its location along Lake Michigan, which tempers Arctic winds in winter and cools the orchards in summer. Other farmers soon followed Dougherty’s example.

By the early 1900s, cherry production surpassed all other major crops in the area. Traverse City Canning Co. opened its doors in 1903 and was soon shipping the sought-after fruit to Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee.

When Did the Cherry Festival Begin?

Traverse City celebrates its thriving cherry industry with the annual National Cherry Festival. The event dates back to 1925 when it was first established as the “Blessing of the Blossoms.” In 2024 the festival will take place from June 29 to July 6.

The National Cherry Festival features a plethora of family fun and many free activities. Parades, live music, and friendly competitions occur throughout the weeklong celebration. See if you can break the Guinness World Record in the Adult Cherry Pit Spit Contest or see who joins the clean plate club in the Kids Cherry Pie Eating Contest.

Traverse City cherries

Known as the Cherry Capital of the world, Traverse City coined this nickname because it has many cherry orchards. Additionally, it hosts a Cherry Festival every year.

©ClarkHarrisinTonkawaOK / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 – License

The Cherry Queens Date Back to 1925

Some traditions, such as electing the Cherry Queens, are as old as the festival itself. The Cherry Queen isn’t just a fun title for a weekend of merriment. This chosen woman is responsible for serving as the ambassador for the National Cherry Festival, the Cherry Industry, and the Traverse City Area. 

Gertrude Brown was chosen as the first Cherry Queen in 1925. Since then a Cherry Queen has been chosen every year, except for 1927 due to the Depression and 1942-1947 due to World War II.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sean Patrick Doran/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Erica is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on history, food, and travel. Erica has over 3 years of experience as a content writer and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which she earned in 2018. A resident of Kansas City, Erica enjoys exploring her home town and traveling around the world to learn about different cultures and try new food.

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