Pro-Life Students Allowed at National Cherry Festival, After Prior Ban

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 23, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Students Allowed at National Cherry Festival, After Prior Ban

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
June 23, 2004

Traverse City, MI ( — A pro-life student group’s entry into the National Cherry Festival’s Junior Royale Parade has been accepted, after Festival officials denied the group last year.

Grand Traverse Area Students for Life has marched at the National Cherry Festival every year since 1996, with the exception of 2003.

Tom Kern, the Festival’s executive director, had said that the group’s application was rejected last year because its entry was not in line with the National Cherry Festival focus for the Junior Royale Parade, namely "cherries, children and fun."

After being rejected, Students for Life collected signatures from more than 1500 people across the state requesting that the Cherry Festival allow them to march in the parade once again.

Michigan state Sens. Michelle McManus and Jason Allen, and Reps. Howard Walker and David Palsrok wrote a letter asking the festival’s committee accept the group’s application in 2004.

Students for Life also credited the media attention given to the situation by local news outlets and national pro-life news services, including

In a compromise agreement, Students for Life will provide “more entertainment,” as requested by Festival officials, by marching behind the drumline from St. Francis High School. As this year’s theme is “The Wonderful World of Bugs,” the students’ t-shirts will feature butterflies and the message, “Life is Beautiful!”

"We talked with them and asked them to include the theme into their entry," Kern said. "Now they fit the criteria and theme of the parade. That was our sole reason and rationale."

In prior years the group’s participation consisted of students wearing T-shirts with positive slogans that would "act really upbeat," marching under a “Celebrate Life” banner.
"We don’t bring up the issue of abortion, just of life itself being a beautiful thing," said Peggy Stinnet, Grand Traverse Area Right to Life president.

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.