Grace Boyles has had a busy year. The Traverse City native has spent the last year focusing on her studies at University of Michigan, interning at 9&10 News and, of course, reigning as National Cherry Queen.
I sit down with Grace in the sports office at the 9&10 News station. She is warm, vivacious and well-spoken, naturally.
“9&10 has been great about teaching me how to put highlights together and video editing.”
Grace further sharpens her sports journalism skills while she is in Ann Arbor, shooting and editing highlights of games at The Big House.
Grace double majors in communication studies and creative writing at school, and her passion for creative writing draws back to her Northern Michigan roots when she got involved with the National Writers Series her senior year at Elk Rapids High School.
“We met three times a week,” Grace reminisces. “We wrote short stories and I really loved it.”
Grace’s creative writing skills have helped her as a college student, a future journalist, and as Cherry Queen.
“I loved being Cherry Queen because I’ve gotten to be a storyteller for the region.”
For Grace, being able to be a storyteller for the region comes from her extensive involvement with the community as Cherry Queen. Grace has learned a lot about the cherry industry from her time as queen by making plenty of visits to the Horticulture Center in Traverse City, attending parades and events, and going to cherry farms.
“The cherry farmers are the sweetest people. I’ve been to processing plants, to orchards. They love getting me in there to do that kind of stuff and I love learning about it,” Grace says with a smile.
Summertime in Michigan is filled with parades, and the Cherry Queen is invited to help celebrate with each of those small town communities by traveling to several gems throughout our region.
“I love the Americana and fun of parades, but I don’t get to talk to people and that’s my favorite part of doing this.”
The people of the Northern Michigan community mean a lot to Grace, and she means a lot to them. It’s easy to see why so many young women compete for the title of Cherry Queen, and it’s not an easy road to earn that title.
The process starts with applying to run for queen. After all applications are in, a selection weekend is held. All the hopeful queen applicants are put together in a hotel where they will give a speech on the cherry industry, attend three panel interviews and answer a question onstage. From selection weekend, four finalists are chosen to be Cherry Queen candidates.
“I actually turned my application in only a few hours before it was due,” Grace laughs. “The Queen Committee likes to joke around with me about that.”
Grace prepared for selection week by contacting a previous queen that lived in her neighborhood growing up. The past Cherry Queen recommended that Grace read a book on the festival. Because Grace didn’t know much about the cherry industry at the time, she made her speech on the Cherry Festival, and she made the top four.
A young woman aspiring to be Cherry Queen can become a top four finalist twice. After a contestant has made it to the top four twice, she can no longer apply to be Cherry Queen. After finalists are chosen, a busy week of festival engagement ensues.
“Last year when I ran, it was my first time running for Cherry Queen, it was my first time being in the top four, there were two other finalists who had already been in the top four before. It was intimidating because they knew what to expect because they had gone through that week before. I like to know what I’m getting into, but I just wanted to experience it like it was all the first time for me, because it was.”
The week of the National Cherry Festival is a busy week for Grand Traverse residents, and absolute madness for a Cherry Queen candidate. However, this year’s candidates are in a unique situation where it is all their first time in the top four.
“It’s all fresh blood, I’m really excited for them. We all just finished getting fitted for our wardrobes. ”
Local retailers donate clothing to the final four for festival week, and the girl who walks away with the crown will enjoy about $10,000 worth of clothing donated to them throughout their year as Cherry Queen, as well as approximately $8,000 towards school tuition.
Festival week will be Grace’s last promenade around Traverse City as Cherry Queen, but the memories and friendships she has made during her reign are everlasting, and she is helping the four candidates the best she can without interfering too much.
“I’ve met so many amazing people and I’ve made so many friends this past year doing this, I hope they all still want to be my friend once I’m not Queen anymore!” Graces jokes.
The Queens Committee is a group dedicated to the handling, promotion and goodwill of the Cherry Queen as well as the Cherry Queen candidates. Many members of the committee, as well as the director of the committee Angela Sayler, have been past Cherry Queens and Grace may join the committee herself one day.
“It’s really cool, it’s a whole network of women who care about the region and the community because they’ve been a part of it.”
Grace has made her mark as Cherry Queen, and the friends she has made and experiences she has had will last a lifetime. Once a Cherry Queen, always a Cherry Queen.