National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 23, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC


National Cherry Festival Discriminates Against Pro-Life Students

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
June 23, 2003

Traverse City, MI ( — The National Cherry festival barred a student group from its Junior Royale Parade, deeming their "Celebrate Life" message as too controversial.

"In a world where young people are often considered disrespectful, it’s sad that the Cherry Festival committee would refuse our group," said Kevin Stinnet, president of Grand Traverse Area Students for Life. "We’re trying to bring a positive message to the community of respect for life." Stinnet said over the past 8 years their parade entry typically consisted of students who wear T-shirts with positive slogans and "act really upbeat."

Tom Kern, the festival’s executive director, told the Traverse City
Record-Eagle that the decision was made by a committee of community volunteers who review applications for all three of the festival’s parades. The Students for Life group was not considered to be in-line with the National Cherry Festival focus for the Junior Royale Parade, namely "cherries, children and fun."

"The festival is about the promotion of cherries and the community; it should not be used as a platform for their issues," Kern said. "We aren’t making a statement that these issues are good or bad but that the festival isn’t the place."

According to the parade rules and regulations posted on the Festival’s website,, "Units sponsored by or depicting a political organization or controversial issue will not be permitted in the parade."

"I was disgusted really," Andrea Becker of Students for Life told the
Record-Eagle. "We purposefully try to not put the word ‘abortion’ on the sign, and we purposefully tried to avoid the controversy in the first place. They allowed us before and now all of a sudden they don’t."

Students for Life, formed in 1995, had about 70 students march in the 2002 Cherry Festivals’ Junior Royale parade. The group also holds an annual pro-life rally and performs skits for area youth groups promoting teen abstinence.

The National Cherry Festival, an annual event in Traverse City, MI since 1926, is held to promote the cherry industry, promote tourism and community involvement, and to cultivate the business, entertainment, and cultural interests of the Grand Traverse region. This year the festival will take place July 5-12.