50,000 pounds of pie: Will Traverse City regain the world record for cherry pie?

35 years ago, Traverse City set a Guinness World Record for baking the largest cherry pie in history. Three years later, Traverse City lost that record to a small town in British Columbia, Canada. This summer, two brothers are leading an ambitious effort to regain the record.

Meet Dakota and Garrett Porter, the leaders of the Big Pie Project gang. their mission? Roll up a cherry pie that is 25 feet in diameter and weighs about 50,000 pounds. If all goes well, the porters and their many collaborators will host an event at the Open Space on August 6, where locals can stop by, watch the record-breaking pie, and try a slice for themselves.

It’s going to take a lot of effort to make this August event a reality—and not just because porters will need some serious equipment to move around and bake their pie. For reference, 50,000 pounds is the weight of a full-size fire truck, an adult humpback whale, or an F-15 fighter jet. It’s also noticeably larger than the pie that Traverse City baked in 1987 for a previous world record (that specimen weighed 28,350 pounds and had a diameter of 17 and a half feet) and that a rotating group in Oliver, British Columbia whipped the record-breaking in 1990 ( which weighed in at £39,683).

Even beyond the sheer size and weight of a pie, porters know they face an uphill climb trying to bring the Guinness World Records back to northern Michigan. By their calculations, the project would cost between $350,000 and $400,000 if they paid the standard retail or service rates for each ingredient — including $50,000 for the cherries and another $35,000 for the stainless steel materials needed for the pie tin. Even bringing a representative from Guinness World Records for the August 6 event — a necessary step to certify the record — carries a $13,500 price tag, plus airfare and accommodation.

The porters say the good news is that they have lined up plenty of partners to help them in their quest. This list of allies includes local companies that have pledged to donate materials, components, or labor to help the cause, as well as corporate sponsors that have made guarantees of financial contributions. For example, Jacklin Steel Supply of Traverse City will design and manufacture the tin, while King Orchards in Central Lake will supply most of the cherries. Other major partners include Traverse City Tourism, Grand Traverse County Health Department, Ice Wilding, Traison Engineering, Tim Elmers, Cherryland Electric, Lamar Advertising and KRX Design.

One partner that has been particularly active on the project is Water’s Edge Sweet Tooth, a Traverse City bakery that is currently expanding the standard cherry pie recipe to a jumbo version. One of the (many) Guinness requirements for trying to score a cherry pie is that the pie must have the proper proportions of all of its ingredients. “So you can’t just throw 49,000 pounds of cherries and 1,000 pounds of sugar into a pie crust and call it good,” laughs Garrett Porter. “Everything needs to be scaled appropriately. Water’s Edge Sweet Tooth corrects these proportions.”

The partnerships are so big that they’ve already wiped out the vast majority of the cost of the Big Pie project. “There are many companies that would like to help and participate in it [this project]”Just looking at the things we can’t donate, like stainless steel raw materials, we’re probably about $75,000 for the money we really need to raise,” Garrett says.

On top of the financial contributions, Dakota estimates that the Big Pie Project may have another $20,000 in guaranteed financial contributions from local businesses. To fill the remaining gap, the project team has launched a GoFundMe page and continues to network with other potential sponsors. But porters are also aware of the fact that time is running out, especially given that some of the larger logistics pieces of the puzzle — from tin-making to holding a Guinness World Records representative — require at least a month’s lead time.

“For example, we need the money we owe to Jacklin Steel which they delivered a month before August 6th, and they need $35,000,” Jarrett says. “So we know we’re getting close to some deadlines here, and we know they’re going to be close. We’ve been pushing really hard in the last couple of weeks to try and secure the funding we need, and that’s definitely the biggest hurdle. But the pie is going to happen regardless. Whether it’s this year or it’s going to be pushed into the year. Next, it will happen.”

The porters say they are intent on making the scoring attempt this year for two reasons.

First, their intention is for the August 6 event to be in part as a charitable benefit. Based on attendance from the last time Traverse City broke the cherry pie record, Porters estimates that 45,000 people will stop by the Open Space for a slice of the pie. Based on the $5 entry price, the event can raise up to $225,000 in ticket sales. It’s possible that some of that money will be needed to pay off remaining debts to project partners or vendors, but Jarrett estimates that Big Pie will still be able to funnel about $150,000 into the community. This proceeds will be split between six local organizations — including For Love Of Water (FLOW), Cherryland Humane Society, TCNewTech, 22 2 None, Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, and Traverse City Tourism — as well as scholarship funds. for NMC for both entrepreneurship and culinary students.

“Getting out of COVID, it seemed like a really good time to get this money for these organizations, because everyone has taken a heavy hit during the pandemic,” Garrett says. “That’s part of the reason we pushed so hard for August 6th.”

Another motivation to regain the world record as quickly as possible? Old fashioned local pride.

“We are the cherry capital of the world,” says Garrett. “Anywhere you go in Traverse City, you see cherry orchards or other cherry marks. We kept asking, ‘Why is this record something we don’t have?’ This has to be here in Traverse City, and somebody has to do something about it.”

If the Big Pie project is successful and Traverse City reclaims the world record, expect to eventually see a 25-foot-high pie tin displayed as part of Rotary Square, the new downtown bound park. An old record pie box (pictured) is currently on display outside the Sara Lee Bakery facility on Cass Road.

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