50,000 Pounds Of Pie: Will Traverse City Reclaim Its Cherry Pie World Record?
By Craig Manning | June 26, 2022
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 spearheading an ambitious effort to get the record back.
Meet Dakota and Garret Porter, the ringleaders of the Big Pie Project. Their mission? Concoct a cherry pie measuring 25 feet in diameter and weighing approximately 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, see the record-breaking pie, and try a slice for themselves.
It will take a heavy lift to make that August event a reality – and not just because the Porters are going to need some serious equipment to move and bake their pie. For reference, 50,000 pounds is about the weight of a full-sized fire truck, an adult humpback whale, or an F-15 fighter jet. It’s also markedly larger than both the pie that Traverse City baked in 1987 to set a previous world record (that specimen weighed 28,350 pounds and measured 17 and a half feet across) and the one that a rotary group in Oliver, British Columbia whipped up to break the record in 1990 (which weighed 39,683 pounds).
Even beyond the sheer size and weight of the pie, the Porters know they face an uphill climb trying to bring a Guinness World Record back to northern Michigan. By their calculations, the project would cost between $350,000 and $400,000 if they were to pay standard retail or service prices for every component – including $50,000 worth of cherries and another $35,000 for the stainless steel materials necessary for the pie tin. Even bringing in a representative from Guinness World Records for the August 6 event – a necessary step to certify the record – carries a price tag of $13,500, plus airfare and lodging.
The good news, the Porters say, is that they’ve lined up a lot of partners to help them in their quest. That list of allies includes local businesses that have pledged to donate materials, ingredients, or labor to help the cause, as well as corporate sponsors that have given guarantees for financial contributions. Traverse City’s Jacklin Steel Supply Co., for instance, will be design and fabricate the pie tin, while King Orchards in Central Lake will provide most of the cherries. Other key partners include Traverse City Tourism, the Grand Traverse County Health Department, Ace Welding, Trison Engineering, Team Elmer’s, Cherryland Electric, Lamar Advertising, and KRX Design.
One partner that has been especially active in the project is Water’s Edge Sweet Tooth, the Traverse City bakery currently working to scale up its standard cherry pie recipe into a jumbo version. One of the (many) Guinness requirements for a cherry pie record attempt is that the pie must have the proper proportions of all its ingredients. “So, you can’t just dump 49,000 pounds of cherries and 1,000 pounds of sugar into the pie crust and call it good,” Garret Porter laughs. “Everything has to be scaled up appropriately. Water’s Edge Sweet Tooth is working to get those ratios correct.”
The partnerships are so substantial that they have already wiped out the vast majority of the cost for the Big Pie Project. “There are so many businesses that want to help out and be a part of [this project],” Garret says. “Looking just at the things that we can't get donated, like the raw material of the stainless steel, we're probably around the $75,000 mark for funds that we actually need to raise.”
On top of the material contributions, Dakota estimates that the Big Pie Project probably has another $20,000 in guaranteed financial contributions from local businesses. To close the remaining gap, the project team has launched a GoFundMe page and is continuing outreach to other potential sponsors. But the Porters are also cognizant of the fact that they are running low on time, especially given that some of the bigger logistical pieces of the puzzle – from manufacturing the pie tin to booking the Guinness World Records representative – require a least a one-month lead time.
“For example, we need to have the money that we owe Jacklin Steel turned in a month before August 6, and they need $35,000,” Garret says. “So, we know that we’re coming up on some deadlines here, and we know it’s going to be close. We’re pushing very hard in the last couple of weeks to try to secure the funding we need, and that’s definitely the biggest hurdle. But the pie will happen regardless. Whether it’s this year or it gets pushed to next year, it's going to happen.”
The Porters say they’re adamant about making the record attempt happen this year for two reasons.
First, their intention is for the August 6 event to serve in part as a charitable benefit. Based on attendance from the last time Traverse City broke the cherry pie record, the Porters are estimating that 45,000 people would stop by the Open Space for a slice of pie. Based on a $5 admission price, the event could raise as much as $225,000 from ticket sales. Some of that money would likely be needed to pay off remaining debts to project partners or vendors, but Garret estimates the Big Pie Project will still be able to funnel about $150,000 back into the community. Those proceeds will be split among six local organizations – including For Love Of Water (FLOW), the Cherryland Humane Society, TCNewTech, 22 2 None, the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, and Traverse City Tourism – as well as NMC scholarship funds for both entrepreneurial and culinary students.
“Coming out of COVID, it just seemed like a really good time to get those funds to these organizations, because everyone got hit so hard during the pandemic,” Garret says. “That’s part of the reason we’re pushing so hard for August 6.”
The other motivation for winning back the world record ASAP? Good old-fashioned local pride.
“We’re the Cherry Capital of the World,” Garret says. “Anywhere you go in Traverse City, you see cherry orchards or other signs of cherries. We kept asking, ‘Why is this record something we don’t have?’ This should be here in Traverse City, and someone should do something about it.’”
If the Big Pie Project is successful and Traverse City gets its world record back, expect to eventually see the 25-foot pie tin displayed as part of Rotary Square, the new park bound for the center of town. The old record-setting pie tin (pictured) is currently displayed outside the Sara Lee Bakery facility on Cass Road.Comment