The annual Blessing of the Blossoms event is happening this weekend. Big thanks to Chateau Chantal’s Bob Begin for getting the word out and sending me the info to post here in Old Mission Gazette.
This year’s Blessing of the Blossoms will take place this Sunday, May 16, at 1 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 12675 Center Road on the Old Mission Peninsula. I believe it will also be streamed live on St. Joe’s website and Facebook page.
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The event will feature four Old Mission Peninsula pastors, including Dr. Gary Hogue from First Congregational Church, Father Ben Rexroat from St. Joseph Catholic Church, Pastor Zelphia Mobley from Old Mission Peninsula United Methodist Church, and Rev. Peter Shumar from Old Mission Congregational Church, along with Bishop Walter Hurley from the Diocese of Gaylord.
The service will including readings and hymns, along with a poem from Kent Wood and the song “The Impossible Dream,” sung by Mike Norton. He sang this song in 1978, when he played Don Quixote in the Old Town Playhouse production of “Man of La Mancha,” and it’s a fitting tune for these interesting times.
After the service, Father Rexroat will follow the 1910 tradition of traveling to OMP orchards and vineyards for personal blessings with holy water. Those attending the service are also invited to drive north to Chateau Chantal, 15900 Rue de Vin off Center Road, for a slice of cherry pie provided by Sara Lee, along with a glass of Chantal wine.
Here’s a video I did of Mark Johnson, winemaker at Chateau Chantal who has since passed away, explaining a bit about the Blessing of the Blossoms at the event in 2017.
A Brief History of Blessing of the Blossoms
The Blessing of the Blossoms event dates back to the early 1900s, when OMP farmers sought blessings for their crops, which were plagued with pests, blight and frost damage. In fact, those worries haven’t gone away over the years – current-day farmers deal with those same issues, as noted in our weekly farm reports.
By the 1920s, it was determined that it would be good to pair the Blessing of the Blossoms event with area businesses to promote economic growth. Thus, the beginnings of the National Cherry Festival started to take shape.
The Friedrich Tower, once located on Center Road at “Winery Hill” (Chateau Grand Traverse), was the site of the first official Blessing of the Blossoms on Sunday, May 24, 1925.
According to a Traverse City Record-Eagle story (read Peg Siciliano’s excellent story here), more than 1000 people gathered at the tower for the event. The tower was decorated with bunting, blossoms and evergreens, with the American flag at the top.
At the 1925 Blessing of the Blossoms, a blessing was given by the Rev. Floyd Blewfield, District Superintendent of the Methodist Church, and music was provided by a male quartet. The Record-Eagle described it as “the most impressive religious ceremony ever held in the Grand Traverse Region.”
However, the weather was not particularly cooperative. The next day, the Record-Eagle published this report:
“A chill wind whistled across the hill top and it … was found better to hold the ceremonies in a deep valley southwest of the tower, which offered shelter from the northwest winds. It was in this setting that the religious ceremonies were held. The crowd was banked against the north side of the valley while the ministers of the city stood at the foot of the slope and preached up to the multitude…
Half the crowd which attended the ceremonies remained in their automobiles because of the cold winds, thus reducing by half the congregation which assembled on the hillside. Unfortunately, those in the cars were unable to hear Rev. Blewfield’s excellent address and the music by the quartet, because of the high wind hustling over the hills.”
It sounds a little like our Spring weather this year! I believe this is the photo from that particular Blessing of the Blossoms on May 24, 1925.
Read more about the Friedrich Tower…