The Cherry Festival

Ruth Lyon in "The Village That Grew"1 writes:

The Cherry Festival celebration was started unknowingly in 1928 by Shorty Britton, who worked at Hogue's packing house. Shorty conceived the idea of having a dance at the end of the season. . . "I went to an American Legion meeting in the old G.A.R. Hall and asked them to take over. I was relieved when they agreed to take over."

John Gamage, a Legion member who always participated in the Cherry Festival remembers the first celebration:
"We had two dances the first year; one in the Liberty Theatre on Main Street and one in the Riverside Hall on Dion Street. They were a howling success. We gave away little baskets of cherries, but they got to throwing cherries at each other. There were cherries on the walls, on the floor, and every place so we never gave cherries again.

"The next year, the Legion booked a carnival to be held in conjunction with the dances. The concessions were set up on Commercial which was closed off from in front of the depot to First Street. . . the next year the carnival set up along Main Street. . .The fourth year the carnival was located on the lot bounded by Main and Wardwell. . . By 1933, they were booking larger high-class carnivals so more room was needed. Finally the city gave the Legion permission to set up carnival concessions in the city park.

"The next year, the organization decided to have queen contests and parades because they wanted to make more money so the could build a hall. The queen candidate and her supporters sold tickets which counted for so many votes. The first queen was Irma Nelson Endorf, who was sponsored by the American Legion. . ."

Emmett Cherry Festival 1934
from "Payette Valley Sentinel."2 New Plymouth.

JUNE 7, 1934
Emmett Plans Cherry Celebration
Plans for the biggest celebration ever planned for Emmett's Cherry Festival, June 13th were completed at a meeting of the American Legion Friday evening of last week and all are working hard to give the visitors here that day an afternoon and evening of fun and frolic without a dull moment. At the present time the item that is creating the most interest is the contest to name the Cherry Queen for that day. Nellie Johnson maintains the lead with 1520 votes, Erma Nelson is second with 780 and Harriet Katzenmeier third with 540. The other ten candidates range from 100 up. Complete plans and program of events will be announced next week.— Emmett Index.
JUNE 14, 1934
Crowds Attend Cherry Festival
A surging crowd numbering over 2,000 visitors, gay music and festive decorations marked another successful Festival of the Cherries at Emmett Wednesday. Miss Erma Nelson charming blonde Miss, was queen of the ceremonies. A colorful pageant was given by 200 school children. Carnival, baseball, golf, boxing, dancing and displays of lucious fruit were the entertainments of the day. Two hundred women displayed quilts and blankets of all kinds and ages. The oldest was a knitted bed-spread 160 years old, which was entered by Mrs. A. E. Smith.

Diana Baird's blog, Messenger Index: Cherry Festival Queens, The first 50 years3 Here is a list of the first 50 years of Cherry Festival Queens.
1934 D Erma Nelson (Endorf) First Cherry Queen
1935 D Helen Hetherington (Sanders)
1936 Esther Peterson (Cope)
1937 D Marie Arraizabala (Martin)
1938 D Helen Schiller (Query)
1939 Doris Hart (Hays)
1940 Myrtle Perkins (Butler)
1941 Annabelle Hetherington (DeMoss)
1942 No Cherry Festival due to World War II; 1943 No Cherry Festival due to World War II; 1944 No Cherry Festival due to World War II; 1945 No Cherry Festival due to World War II
1946 D Marie Basabe (Robinson)
1947 D Ilene Lyon (Garatea)
1948 Wilma Guy (Hart)
1949 Elisabeth Fundasuri (Miller)
1950 Bernice Buzzard (Moore)
1951 Donna Moeller (Hove)
1952 D Rose Mcrae (Evans)
1953 Bonnie Cherry (Butler)
1954 Barbara Ottebacher (Butler)
1955 D Ella Knox Parrish4
1956 Dixie Garfield
1957 Katherine Bills (Mecham)
1958 Sharon Griffiths (Barnett)
1959 Lynda Knox (Rawlings)
1960 Janet Blair (Dillon)
1961 Janie Lou Dresser (Schaut)
1962 Jean Harris (Munger)
1963 Diane Goodwin (Wolf)
1964 Ileene Reynolds (Goodwin)
1965 Susan Sanders (Jenkins)
1966 Janis Harper (Miller)
1967 D Melody Clark (Kincaid)
1968 Rhonda Farnsworth (Owens)
1969 Jeanne Reilly (Smith)
1970 Kerri Ness (Sutton)
1971 Dixie Carr (Dykman)
1972 Diane Adamson (Poulton)
1973 Keri Adamson (Wettstein)(Fisher)
1974 Becky Carrol (Ray)
1975 Shelly Oliver
1976 Marla Price (Price)
1977 Monica Price (Briscoe)
1978 Mary Loue Mcdougal
1979 Patty Dion (Freeman)
1980 Camile Campbell (Mick)


1 "The Village That Grew" by Ruth B. Lyon, 1979, (p. 245f).

2 "Payette Valley Sentinel." (New Plymouth). Amoral Tuttle Public Library at

3 Diana's blog at

4 Ella Knox Parrish (1868-1964) was 87 at the time. She was selected to be queen for her service and dedication to the community. - "Emmett and Gem County (Images of America)", by Julianna Rekow Peterson. Arcadia Publishing (December 8, 2014). (available at the museum)

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Unless otherwise attributed, all photos and text are the property of Gem County Historical Society

Serving Gem County since 1973.

Wednesday - Saturday 1:00pm - 5:00pm & by appointment    ::    Extended hours during The Cherry Festival in June.