A crowd of Old Mission Peninsula residents gathered at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Sunday, May 16, 2021 to celebrate the annual Blessing of the Blossoms.
Organized in recent years by Bob Begin of Chateau Chantal, the event dates back to the early 1900s, when Old Mission Peninsula farmers sought blessings for their crops, which were plagued with pests, blight and frost damage – things that have not diminished over the years.
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By the 1920s, it was decided 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. Read more about the long history of the Blessing of the Blossoms here.
This year’s service included scripture readings by 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 also included a poem read by Kent Wood, along with Mike Norton singing “The Impossible Dream,” which he first sang in an Old Town Playhouse production of Man of La Mancha in 1978.
After the service, Father Rexroat followed the 1910 tradition of traveling to OMP orchards and vineyards for personal blessings with holy water. Those attending the service were invited to drive north to Chateau Chantal for a slice of cherry pie provided by Sara Lee, along with a glass of Chantal wine.
A few highlights of the day:
As mentioned, Mike Norton sang “The Impossible Dream” during the service at St. Joseph Catholic Church. Here’s a video of the last part of the song.
During the service, Father Rexroat mentioned that the book he was using for the blessing was actually a book once used by Father Fred, well known in the Traverse City area for his charitable and philanthropic work. The Father Fred Foundation continues to do good work in the community, helping those in need with dignity and respect.
During the service, Chateau Chantal’s Bob Begin brought attention to the fact that one of the attendees was Senator George McManus, who grew up on the Old Mission Peninsula and whose family has a long legacy of farming here. George also wrote the book, “The Boy from Archie,” which is available over on Amazon here.
After the Blessing of the Blossoms service at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Ken Lardie gave a short interview with Up North Live about the event and how the crops are looking this year (the tart cherry crop is not looking good, due to frost damage). Check out Miya Ingle’s story and video over here.
For the blessing at Buchan’s Blueberry Hill, Karen Buchan rode her little four-wheeler down to participate. Note the front license plate: “Patch Patrol” and “Norm,” her husband who passed away in 2017.
At Mary Lyon’s farm, Mary brought out a clipboard with a visitor list for us to sign. She’s been asking visitors to the farm to sign it for many years – I believe she said since 1999. I was Visitor 6180, and Tim was 6181.
Tim and I followed Father Rexroat around to the orchards and vineyards and blueberry patch where he performed the blessings (he called us his paparazzi), so we got to Chateau Chantal after the cherry pie event was over. But I took a photo of the blossoms there, along with a photo on the wall of Mark Johnson, longtime winemaker for Chantal who passed away in 2017.
A few more photos and videos of the Blessing of the Blossoms…