Showcasing the agricultural and Western heritage of The Dalles—an historic Oregon community on the banks of the Columbia River—the Northwest Cherry Festival was launched in 1979, though its roots date back to 1940, when a local woman, Helen Spickerman, was chosen as Cherry Queen to represent the city and one of its most important products at the Rose Parade in Portland.
Northwest Cherry Festival – USA Festivals Photo Gallery
World War II interrupted the idea thereafter until 1960 when the Wasco County Fruit and Produce League and the Washington Fruit Commission, in conjunction with The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce, created and promoted a new symbol of the industry, the Cherry Sweetheart. Nowadays, 4 beautifully restored vintage delivery truck at the Northwest Cherry Festival. this popular and extravagant weekend-long celebration envelopes the city’s wonderful downtown district and features myriad events and attractions for all ages.
The centerpiece of the Cherry Festival is the largest parade in the Columbia Gorge on Saturday morning, featuring the Cherry Festival Royalty with King Bing and Queen Anne, who are crowned that morning. The festival also features a classic car show, a lip sync contest, great local live music, a carnival by Davis Shows Northwest, and—naturally—a chance to sample cherries and cherry products of many descriptions, as well as peruse the wares of a wide array of vendors. Over the years the mix of activities has changed a bit but always includes a superb lineup of events for all ages, including a variety of unique highlights such as the Once Upon a Cherry Faire, a reenactment and demonstration of life in the Middle Ages, including dancing, archery, fighting, clothing, food, music, arts, and more, all produced by the Society for Creative Anachronism. A number of events—such as the Cherry Festival Softball Tournament hosted by Wasco County Parks and Recreation and the annual Cherry of a Ride recreational bicycle ride sponsored by Saint Mary’s Academy—are not officially part of the festival but are associated with it to create a comprehensive weekend extravaganza with something for everyone.
The festival begins Friday afternoon, and from 6:30 to 9 pm the Family Pit Party (a family dance party) is ongoing downtown. Saturday morning kicks off with the Cherry Festival Breakfast, beginning at 7:30 am, and the crowning of the Cherry Festival Royalty, as well as the Northwest Cherry Festival Run (10K). The Northwest Cherry Festival Parade begins at 10 am and draws throngs of cheerful onlookers; a caravan of motorcyclists precedes the parade in the Teddy Bear Run, in which riders carry teddy bears they donate to the local emergency services for children in difficult circumstances. Saturday evening brings the finals of the Northwest Cherry Idol live singing competition.
The Northwest Cherry festival is a free family-friendly extravaganza (the Davis Shows Carnival requires purchase of a ticket, either at the gate or in advance at The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce at 404 West 2nd Street). The Dalles, a congenial town of about 15,000 people, offers a wonderful array of dining options, lodging options, and attractions; several excellent breweries and wineries, and a variety of intriguing shops, are located in the downtown area where the Cherry Festival is held.
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