The annual Blessing of the Blossoms is coming right up. This year’s event will take place at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 12675 Center Road, on May 13, 2023. There will be cherry pie and local wine.
The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. with three local pastors participating: Rev. Peter Shumar of Old Mission Congregational Church, Pastor Andrea Johnson of Old Mission Peninsula United Methodist Church, and Father Rexroat of St. Joseph Catholic Church.
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After the service, Father Rexroat will begin the journey to bless the blossoms on each Old Mission Peninsula farm that has requested it. Folks attending the service may stay for complimentary cherry pie from Sara Lee and local wine while it lasts. To get your farm on the list, contact the St. Joseph office, (231) 421-7310, ext 1, or email [email protected].
The service, which offers hope for the renewal of budding blossoms and a fruitful harvest season ahead, will also be live-streamed at the St. Joseph website here and Facebook page here.
Here’s a video I did of Mark Johnson, winemaker at Chateau Chantal who has since passed away (we miss you, Mark!), explaining a bit about the Blessing of the Blossoms at the event in 2017.
A 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” (near 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. Here’s a photo from the event.
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 (and, well, pretty much every year)!
Over the years, the Blessing of the Blossoms has taken place at Bowers Harbor, Old Mission and most recently, Chateau Chantal, where Chantal Founder Bob Begin re-ignited and spearheaded the event for many years.
Here are a few photos of the Blessing of the Blossoms events over the past few years.