(Traverse City, MI) On one level the 80th National Cherry Festival is just another crass marketing event designed to bring tens of thousands of tourists (like me) to the towns around the Grand Traverse Bay.
With lots of disposable cash.
And yet, it is clear that people in northern Michigan are proud of this hokey, homespun event, and that is the real charm of the Cherry Festival.
There are authentic slices of Americana like the Pit-Spitting Contest, in which contestants line up to break the world record of 63 feet, or the Ultimate Air Dogs competition, where daredevil canines bid to see who will be the top flying pooch.
My natural tendency is to avoid crowds, preferring instead to read a good book or work in my garden. Yet even I, a misanthropic curmudgeon, found the Waconia (MN) Marching Band's performance in the Cherry Festival Parade to be entertaining.
Not once did I get the itch to reach for my laptop and scan for wireless signals. The computer stayed behind, and life was excellent, even if I couldn't sell a story to pay for my trip north.
Walking along a deserted Lake Michigan beach made the trip worthwhile - miles upon endless miles of beautiful scenery without the slightest hint of the presence of human activity.
Some people get recharged from social interaction, but I find energy and inspiration in periods of isolation. I can sit on an empty beach for hours and be completely entertained if I have a pad of paper and a pen.
I am happy to interact with other people, but I find large groups to be physically and creatively draining.
Give me an uninhabited beach or desolate forest, and I am content.