Going to the National Cherry Festival? Consider Riding Your Bike

In 2016, the National Cherry Festival recorded 662,000 unique visits over the eight-day event.

Visitors pour in to Traverse City to enjoy the fest, which celebrates and promotes cherries and the Grand Traverse region. All those people tend to travel in cars, meaning jams and longer-than-usual commutes for people making their way to some of the big-name entertainment the festival draws.

For the third year in a row, residents and visitors might want to consider commuting to Cherry Fest by bike. Thanks to local youth cycling organization Norte, a bike valet will be set up for riders attending the festivities.

“Every single one of those bikes is one less car on the road,” said Ty Schmidt, Norte Executive Director.

Cyclists exchange their bike for a Pokémon card valet stub, their bike is secured and watched while they have fun and they’ll get their ride back when they turn their Pokémon card back in – all free of charge.

Cherry Festival organizers commissioned Norte to operate the bike valet, which was utilized by about 1,000 people each of the last two years. The group has also provided the valet service at the Downtown Farmers Market and Summer Microbrew and Music Festival.

The money raised supports Safe Routes to School programming, which is dedicated to helping elementary and middle school students actively transport themselves to school and to grow walking and biking cultures at local partner schools. Norte partners with the city on the initiative.

“There’s always efforts underway to make the community more accessible for biking and walking,” said Missy Luick, planning and engineering assistant for the city.

Luick said the city is working on a number of initiatives to make Traverse City more bike-friendly, such as a non-motorized trail around Boardman Lake, adding bike lanes to main thoroughfares and making sure that connectivity is built into future projects so that cyclists and pedestrians have unimpeded routes to use.

As for the bike valet at the Cherry Festival, kids who park and watch over the bikes will earn some money and be able to represent Norte in the community. Schmidt said they’re in charge of running the bike valet and helping to train volunteers, which helps them take ownership of their involvement in the organization.

Schmidt said getting to the Cherry Festival by bike is a no-brainer. It’s likely you’ll arrive to your destination faster than by car, plus you’ll get to take in a closer view of Traverse City’s gorgeous bay or eclectic downtown. There won’t be any circling to find a parking spot and the valet is conveniently located right by the festival’s Open Space area.

Plus, there’s more social connection to be made smiling and waving on a bike than there is hiding behind your car’s windshield, Schmidt said. With Traverse City’s ongoing commitment to being a bicycle-friendly community, he’s hopeful that the bike valet will continue to thrive at the Cherry Festival and other local events.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is proud to present the Pepsi Bay Side Music Stage at the 2017 National Cherry Festival. The festival takes place Saturday, July 1 through  Saturday, July 8, 2017.

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Photo courtesy of Ty Schmidt/Norte

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