EMMETT— Preperations began Monday for the 79th annual Emmett Cherry Festival. The festivities include four days of events that range from classic car shows, to music, and even the Miss Gem County pageant.
However, one very important factor is missing from this year’s famous festival -- the cherries.
The Executive Director for the Gem County Chamber of Commerce says the 2013 spring was not kind to Emmett’s fruit farmers.
CHERRIES DOWN 90%
Diane Streeby says cherry producers all over Emmett felt some sort of impact from a cold spring snap and many producers lost roughly 90 percent of their seasonal crop.
While some local producers will be able to lend their cherries to the festival, according to Streeby, cherries will be going fast.
“Will we have as many local as we had last year? No,” she said. “But, will we have enough cherries to feed everyone? Yes.”
“So, I go to my local Albertsons and just ask for them to bring them in, because we can’t have Cherry Fest without the cherries,” said Streeby.
WALKER FRUIT RANCH SUFFERS
Just off Mill Road, we found the Walker Fruit Ranch, a family-run business that won’t be as busy this year, compared to last.
“It's pretty much a summer off for us,” said fruit ranch owner Travis Whittemore.
The orchard has been in the family for decades, and Bryce Walker said the farm started out with 60 acres of fruit trees, but now it’s down to just five acres.
“Typically, we try and keep it in the family,” said Whittemore.
The ranch has 175 cherry trees. However, Whittemore says only a select few actually produced the juicy red fruit this year. More than 90 percent of the cherries were lost.
“We are growing shade trees basically,” Whittemore said.
The cold snap he's talking about came in April, when several consecutive days dropped below 28 degrees.
“It killed many of the blossoms, so that was a big deal for us,” Whittemore said. “We have talked to several growers who are in similar boats. It’s really a rough year for all the growers here, I believe.”
Bryce Walker said the season is a big loss, and it will probably take a couple of years to make it up.
“Oh it hurts,” said Laurel Walker. “I think it’s disappointing for sure. It impacts our kids that is their money for the year.”
That's because the family's children work the family's roadside stand in the summer selling cherries.
However, with such a long history in the business of farming, this family knows each year Mother Nature can bring anything.
“It’s just a part of farming,” said Laurel Walker. "But we love having an orchard. I feel so blessed to have this orchard for good or bad.”
The 79th Emmett Cherry Festival starts Wednesday at 12 p.m. in downtown Emmett. The festival ends Saturday at Midnight.