July 4–8, the National Cherry Festival and Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) presented Cherry Connection. Attendees were invited to visit the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station (NWMHRS), part of the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) operated by MSUE in Traverse City. Besides guided orchard tours, there were exhibits and samples of the newest cherry products and technology inside the station. Fun activities for the kids included a petting zoo, hands-on experiments, a poster-coloring contest and many other activities.
Jennifer Berkey, MSUE Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties educator, says that more than 2,400 people attended Cherry Connection. In fact, they had a record turnout on Monday and Tuesday when more than 600 people attended each day. In a survey, 95 percent of participants stated they will purchase a locally produced cherry product in the near future. Ninety-eight percent stated that they learned a new fact about cherries or a new use for cherries. Attendees cited the orchard tour and cherry taste testing as favorite event activities. Looks like the staff met their goal of showing people where cherries come from while having a little fun along the way.
You’ll learn some fun facts about cherries and about the Cherry Connection when you view this video from Northern Michigan’s Fox 32 News on the 9&10 News website: http://www.9and10news.com/category/story/?id=238899&cID=1.
And says Dr. Nikki Rothwell, MSUE district horticulturalist and NWMHRS coordinator, after viewing the video, “We should recruit the 4-H kid to do our PR work!”
4-H kids help out at the Cherry Connection each day. They bring their animals for the petting zoo, which this year included a horse, a steer, rabbits, chickens and llamas. They also sold dried and chocolate-covered cherries and cherry sodas. Barb Duvall, Leelanau County Extension educator, did a fantastic job of helping coordinate the kids and the petting zoo portion of the event.
The Cherry Connection is a great example of coordinated teamwork involving the MAES, MSUE, 4-H, the cherry festival and the cherry industry.