Behind the Scenes of the National Cherry Festival: The Queen and Her Court

The National Cherry Festival has come and gone for another year, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to say goodbye just yet. Over the course of the week there were a lot of things to do: carnival rides, parades, talent shows or watching the Ultimate Air Dogs.

The week of the National Cherry Festival saw many people coming in from all over the state and country, exciting events for visitors to participate in and new food to try, but it also saw the end of an era with the coronation of the new National Cherry Queen.

What does the National Cherry Fest look like for the National Cherry Queen and her court? What do they do leading up to the coronation?

The answer is socializing.

A lot of socializing.

And special events like Princess Tea Parties, or pizza parties or parades. Being in the audience for talent shows and taking photo shoots at the dunes. Community service with making sandwiches for Project Feed the Kids at J&M Hamburg.

There’s a lot that goes into the last week of being the National Cherry Queen or being on the court waiting to see if it’s your name called to become the new queen.

This is just a sneak peak of what goes on behind the scenes.

“Hi everyone, I’m Allie Graziano. I’m your 2021-2022 National Cherry Queen and welcome to the cherry capital of the world,” 2021-22 National Cherry Queen Allie Graziano said in her opening speech on the first day of the festival Saturday. “If you are visiting, it is an honor to have served as your national tour going and what a privilege it is to host you all for the 96th National Cherry Festival. I’m so excited for the next week.”

Img 1444The first day of the festival means opening speeches, handing out prints of the winning painting to honored guests and cutting the cherry pie to officially open the festival. It means welcoming the queen’s court and starting the judging process.

It’s the first day of the few days you’ll have left for being queen.

And for someone like Graziano, it wasn’t until Thursday, the last full day of her being queen, that it started to hit her.

“I would say bittersweet because this is a dream I had in my heart since 2005, and I worked my heinie off to make it happen,” Graziano says about describing what it’s like to be the National Cherry Queen at the National Cherry Festival. “And just to be able to experience this year and to be able to be the Queen and to be here and first of all and be able to have my last full day as queen today is just truly bittersweet.”

But it isn’t all bittersweet moments. She has her favorite moments, the ones she looks back on with a smile. Like her favorite event, the cherry pie eating contest where she learned just how competitive her court could be. 

“I haven’t done the cherry pie eating contest in a really long time. And being able to do the cherry pie eating contest this week with my court was absolutely incredible,” Graziano said. “This group of women are very, very competitive, and I had no idea until they said. On your mark, get set, eat your pie. And they went crazy on their pieces of pie. So I would say that’s my new favorite event. And just a great memory to be able to share with my court.”

The court is made up of four girls that passed the selection process a month before the festival. It is from these four that the new National Cherry Queen was chosen.

This year, the court included Olivia Coolman, Kaylee Coy, Emma McGuire and Sidra Smith.

The four of them spent the week following the National Cherry Queen to all of her events, socializing with the crowds and getting judged to see who would become the next National Cherry Queen.

They each had their favorite events.

“My favorite event is the Princess Tea because I remember going to that with my mom and other visiting royalty,” said McGuire. “It’s just so special and it’s so nice to be able to make those kids’ day.”

“I think this week, my favorite event was the Flying Pancake Breakfast,” said Coolman. “So fun to see all the little ones out there jumping and twirling and diving for the pancakes.”

And they even gave us a glimpse into how they would describe the National Cherry Festival.

“One word to describe this week… impactful,” said Coy. “This has been an amazing week. I’ve learned so much and I feel truly blessed to have met so many amazing people.”

“Magical,” Smith said.

Before they even think about the parade on Thursday, their schedules are filled to the brim: a fashion show Wednesday night where they can show off local boutiques, a Princess Tea PartyImg 3301 to brighten up the kids’ day happens on Tuesday, Wednesday morning they’re playing sports with the special needs kids. This doesn’t even include the events where they just show up, such as “Cherries Got Talent” or the cherry pie eating competitions.

But much like the National Cherry Festival, everything has to come to an end, even a week filled to the brim with schedules and memories.

Friday night saw Graziano and her court making one last appearance before the new queen was crowned. It started with Graziano thanking everyone who had been there for her during the year that she was queen, and ended with Coolman getting crowned the 2022-23 National Cherry Queen.

Categories: National Cherry Festival