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The future of the 2024 National Cherry Festival Air Show is no longer in jeopardy

TRAVERSE CITY — The popular air show will be back after a dispute between the Northwest Regional Airport Authority and the National Cherry Festival left its future in doubt.

The main attraction of the festival that brings hundreds of thousands of spectators to Traverse City was thrown into question after negotiations broke down in March.

The NRAA which operates Cherry Capital Airport and the National Cherry Festival have had contentious negotiations starting back last October, but now they said they are ready to move forward after finally striking a deal.


Chief operating officer Dan Sal said the NRAA board approved an access agreement that would allow use of the airport for the next three years.

“I’m glad the agreement is signed and hopefully we can move forward. It means that we can work together,” said Sal.

National Cherry Festival executive director Kat Paye said they are happy with the outcome.

“The Blue Angels will be taking off from Cherry Capital Airport as planned. They will, of course, fly in western Grand Traverse Bay for June 29th and June 30th,” said Paye.


The National Cherry Festival had balked at signing any past agreement attempts, with both sides accusing the other of wanting too much control but now the NCF said signing gives clarity, like when different components of the airshow can fly and on what days for the next three years.

“We went into the agreement voluntarily, understanding that both parties needed to better understand their different roles and responsibilities, said Sal.

The airport said the agreement was necessary in order to comply with local, state, and federal law as well as being in line with an ordinance they have on the books that any third party needed to sign a special event agreement.

The airport still has concerns the airshow conflicts too much with flights but Sal said for now, the way the National Cherry Festival has been running the airshow will remain the same with some assurances from them that they will work with the airport on not disrupting commercial flights.


“Our sixth airline has just announced that they’re joining us and 20 connecting cities. So we’re getting bigger and we’re getting busier. So it’s going to be difficult in the future,” said Sal.

Both the NRAA and The National Cherry Festival said they plan to carry on an ongoing dialogue to smooth out any bumps after this year’s event.

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