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Fourth of July on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula

by Chris Loud

On the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan’s lower mitten, Fourth of July Americana runs as deep as the dark red of the cherries that speckle the orchards scattered across the ancient rolling dunes. Small towns light up both day and night, travelers feast on fish and fudge, and the locals party until the sun comes up, all on the year’s most anticipated and celebrated day.

At the tip of the Peninsula (or the Pinky Finger) in the little village of Northport, you’ll find tall red canisters in the local stores and restaurants placed year round to collect money for the next Fourth of July Fireworks, a show that will always catch the newcomer by surprise, and continue to dazzle the seasoned veteran. Dotted with boats containing extra stowaways gazing up at the night sky, the picturesque marinas in Northport and Leland make for the perfect backdrop for the sights and sounds of summer, with chest pounding thuds that echo for miles over the lake.

If you can’t get enough fireworks from Leland’s display on July 3rd, and Northport’s display on the 4th, make your way to a bonfire on a bayside beach or on top of Bramen Hill west of Northport’s downtown, and witness hundreds of firework shows going off up and down the coast in villages and on the private beaches of several capable pyrotechnic amateurs. This will go on for the entirety of the Fourth of July week, capping off with a large display at the base of the bay on the vibrant Traverse City waterfront, ending the week long Cherry Festival from July 7th to the 14th.

In my opinion, the fireworks are fun, but the parades are the true slices of Fourth of July apple pie. It’s hard not to love the candy throwing, classic cars, local businesses advertising, kazoos, costumes, bikers, and everything in between. You can catch two memorable parades back-to-back on Fourth of July in Leelanau – Glen Arbor at 12:00 Noon – Leland at 3:00 PM. They are the perfect way to spend an Independence Day afternoon.

Around the Leelanau Peninsula, this time of year is like what Christmas is to the North Pole. So outside of the classic parades and firework shows, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy. Here’s a list of what you can find all over the Leelanau Peninsula around the Fourth of July.

June 30th

Traverse City Wine and Art Festival : Original art on display, music, wine from Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsula wineries, and food from

Traverse City. 3:00 to 10:00 PM.

Kehl Lake Natural Area, Discover Nature’s Richness: 10:00 AM – Experience the many plants and animals of the Kehl Lake Natural Area.

July 1st

Glen Arbor Pancake Breakfast: 8:00 AM to Noon at the Glen Arbor Township Hall.

DeYoung Farm, Inside and Out: Tour the historic farm at 1:00 PM with expert guides.

Polka Lessons: 7:00 PM at the Cedar Township Hall. (Get ready for the upcoming Polka festival, see below)

July 3rd

Manitou Music Festival: Patriotic music performed by the Northport Community Band on the Glen Arbor Athletic Club lawn at 7:00 PM.

Patriotic Hymn Sing: 8:00 PM at the Village Green in Leland, performed by members of the Immanuel Lutheran Church of Leland.

Leland Fourth of July Fireworks: Starts at Dusk at Hancock Field.

July 4th

Glen Arbor Fourth of July: Parade starts at 12:00 AM on M-22 downtown.

Flag raising ceremony at 10:30 AM in Old Settlers Park.

Free bike decorating at 10:30 AM at the Glen Arbor Art Association.

Leland Fourth of July: Parade starts at 3:00 PM on M-22 downtown. Free bike decorating at 1:00 PM at the Old Art Building.

Northport Fourth of July Fireworks: Starts at Dusk at the Marina Park.

July 5th

Cedar Polkafest: (July 5th – 8th) Polka dancing, food, children’s activities. Parade at noon on July 7th.

July 7th

Run for Funds: Run/Walk to benefit American Cancer Society. Meet at the Depot near the Marina in Northport. Race starts at 9:00 AM.

National Cherry Festival Air Show: 12:45 to 3:00 PM on July 7th and 8th over the West Grand Traverse Bay. Performed by the Black Diamond Jet Team, F-18 Hornets. The Cherry Festival continues the whole week through the 14th, capping off with yet another huge firework display.

Chris Loud is a writer and blogger based out of Northport, Michigan and Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter @cfloud.