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Sampling The Treats at the National Cherry Festival

Grabbing a cup of fresh cherries is one way to enjoy the fruits of a festival, but cherries are certainly versatile.

You can find them in all forms at the National Cherry Festival.

Checking out vender’s samples reveals there’s more to a stall than meets the eye.

Lin Benfield, from Benjamin Twiggs, says, “You can put cherries in just about everything.”

Cherry salsa, coffee, pop, ketchup, mustard—even dog biscuits.

You name it and these National Cherry Festival vendors got it.

“They don’t realize the amount of different products that there are that have cherries in them,” Lin says. “A lot of times people start at one end of our booth and they see a couple of things that they came for, like if they came for the chocolate covered cherries and then they don’t realize that there’s marinades and grubs and that kind of thing,”

For Herkner Farms, it’s their brand new barbecue sauce that’s already a bestseller, says HF president Bruce Byl.

“They’re impressed the cherries are actually from the Leelanau Peninsula,” he said. “They’re our dark cherries, and they’re just unbelievably tasty. It’s a great recipe, it goes a long way and people find it to be very unique.”

The sauce doesn’t just taste good, it does good for the community.

In fact, every jar sold from the Herkner Farm tent goes towards a meal for Food Rescue Northwest Michigan.

“On Saturday, our first day (made) 599 meals and then yesterday brought us up to 15,097 (meals),” he says. “People really get when you mention to them what you’re doing and how it’s benefitting the community. They really get on board.”

At the end of the festival, Herkner Farms is also matching those donations.