In two days, the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City gets underway–a weeklong celebration of the juicy red fruit that includes all the activities you’d expect from a super fun and family-friendly summer festival, from parades, pie-eating contests and arts and air shows, to live music, carnival rides and loads of delicious eating. (Cherry-themed food and items galore, too, of course.)

Most importantly? We can run for cherries! 

The Festival of Races feature distances for everyone–a half marathon that starts on Old Mission Peninsula at Chateau Grand Traverse, as well as an awesome 10K, a 15K that’s known for its “Mt. McKinley” climb midway through, and a great 5K run/walk. Over the years, our family has run each of these distances with the exception of the half (this remains on my list of races to run…), and it’s always such a fun morning. It can be on the warm side–it is July, after all–but there’s just something about getting up early on the final day of festival week, toeing the start line on the peninsula, and heading through the heart of downtown to the finish, where fresh cherries await.

/Photography by John L. Russell


MRG is again partnering with the Festival of Races, and this year, along with a race discount that’s good for any of the distances, we’ve got an amazing giveaway just for MRG readers and listeners: a VIP Tour and Tasting for up to 8 people–a $200 value–at Chateau Grand Traverse, which is where the half marathon starts. This tour and tasting includes a personal vineyard/winery tour and VIP tasting. {Details on entering to win this giveaway at the end of this post}

Chateau Grand Traverse has been producing the Cherry Festival’s signature wine for more than 20 years. The winery became the sponsor of the half marathon when race organizers added the distance a few years ago.

“Having the Cherry Festival half marathon race start at Chateau Grand Traverse and continue through the vineyards and cherry orchards is a really special experience that ties in nicely with the festival as a whole,” says Megan Molloy, marketing coordinator for Chateau Grand Traverse. “While the Cherry Festival is certainly about having a great time here in Traverse City, it’s also about celebrating and bringing awareness to the agriculture in the area. Running down Old Mission Peninsula through grape vines and cherry trees is a really unique way to see how prominent and important agriculture truly is in this area and in Michigan as a whole.”

Some interesting cherry facts and history on how Traverse City became the Cherry Capital of the World, according to festival organizers:

  • A Presbyterian missionary–Peter Dougherty– planted cherry trees on Old Mission Peninsula in the mid 1800s, and they flourished (much to the surprise of other farmers). Soon other residents of the area planted trees. The area proved to be ideal for growing cherries because Lake Michigan tempers Arctic winds in winter and cools the orchards in summer.
  • The first commercial tart cherry orchards in Michigan were planted in 1893 on Ridgewood Farm near the site of Dougherty’s original plantings. By the early 1900s, the tart cherry industry was firmly established in the state with orchards not only in the Traverse City area, but all along Lake Michigan from Benton Harbor to Elk Rapids. Soon production surpassed other major crops. The first cherry processing facility, Traverse City Canning Company, was built just south of Traverse City, and the ruby-red fruit was soon shipped to Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee.
  • Today, the U. S. cherry industry produces more than 650 million pounds of tart and sweet cherries each year. Much of the cherry production is concentrated in Michigan and the Northwest. Michigan grows about 75 percent of the tart cherry crop. Oregon and Washington harvest about 60 percent of the sweet cherry crop. Other states with commercial cherry crops are Utah, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania and California.

Contest details!

1.) Leave a comment below sharing why you’d like to win this tour and tasting package (and who you’d have join you). And if you are planning to run one of the Festival of Races events, please also share which one. (If you haven’t yet signed on, there’s still time! And you can save on your race entry…code below!)

2.) The giveaway starts today, June 27, and ends Monday, July 2.

3.) One winner will be announced here on the blog by Tuesday, July 3.

Good luck!

Ready to sign up for the Festival of Races?

Register here » 

Use the code MiRun4Cherries2018 to receive $5 off your race entry.


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