A cherry good time

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Tai Shriver, 7, and brother Noah Shriver, 6. both of Polson, look in awe at the wonder of a cherry-flavored shaved ice dish during the Cherry Festival last weekend in Polson.

Videos and photos of the Cherry Festival

POLSON - Main Street in Polson was abuzz with people, vendors, a climbing wall and even bagpipes as the 2010 Polson Main Street Flathead Cherry Festival took place last weekend.

"It's fun for everyone," Kirk Bartel, of Ronan, said. "There's plenty for kids, plenty for mom to shop around and plenty for dad to eat. The last one is my favorite part."

Taking place Saturday and Sunday, the festival featured several different food choices and items ranging from custom-made bows to glass art. Musical bands also performed, with some at set locations and some wandering around.

"We try to walk to every business but this thing is getting so big," Steve Riddle, a member of the Singing Sons of Beaches, said.

One of the louder bands making their presence known was the Great Scots Pipe and Drum band. Their Scottish bagpipes and attire seemed to be a big hit with people on the streets, and that helped them bear the heat of wearing heavy costumes and instruments during the event.

"Once you start playing, you forget about it," Susan Luepke, one of the band members carrying a large drum, said.

The Cherry Festival started eleven years ago as the Polson Main Street Festival. Four years ago, the cherry theme of the celebration was brought in and has been successful in drawing people from all around.

"It brought in a whole new aspect," event organizer Jackie Cripe said. "It made it a fun way to have events. It was a whole new way to do the festival that no one else can do."

The festival has grown considerably and that has caught the attention of the vendors.

"In the beginning, it was hard to get vendors to come," Cripe said. "I don't have to search anymore, they come to me."

Cripe set up the festival so that there was only limited space for vendors that sold similar items.

"The vendors come back because they have an opportunity to market their product without being overwhelmed," she said.

Cripe said 8,000 people come through the city's Main Street area, which also affects local businesses in a positive way.

"It's our best weekend of the year," Cripe, owner of Jackie M's Footwear, said. "I hope it is the same case with every business."

Along with the booths on the street, there were also several competitions going on. Kids and adults alike tested their spittle and lung capacity in the cherry pit-spitting contest.

"We practiced with an entire bag of cherries," 7-year-old Dyllan Hankins, of Polson, said.

The competitiveness took over, and individuals started developing strategies for their spitting.

"I was trying not to look at people," 7-year-old Miriam Allen, of Polson, said. "Because when I smile, I get ticklish, and when I get ticklish, I get weak."

On Sunday, the grand finale, in terms of cherry competition, was the pie-eating contests. The kids took to the tables with big appetites and it was sheer face-in-pie madness.

"It knocked about 15 seconds off when I finished all the toppings off first," Hankins said.

His 5-year-old sister, Katelyn, proclaimed that she was not hungry after the event.

During the adult competition, many people hopped in because their kids had done the event. Some were just looking for a good meal.

"It's because I love food," 17-year-old Marlee Berry, of Polson, said about entering the contest.

Strategy went out the window as faces became caked with cherries and crust.

"I just kind of shoved my face with it," 16-year-old Nina Orozco, of Polson, said.

While there was a shortage of napkins after the contest, there wasn't a shortage of smiles and good times during the weekend.

"It's a great opportunity to get a chance to get out and see what Polson is all about," Layne McKay, local Polson band member of Off in the Woods, said.


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