Number Plate Hunt at Festival

Every year people from all across the country flock to Traverse City for the National Cherry Festival. They anticipate watching the air show, enjoying cherry delicacies, and attending a wide array of festival events. But for my family, Cherry Festival means one more thing: our annual number plate hunt.

At the start of the festival, we print a list of all 50 states. Then, for the next week we are constantly on the lookout for a number plate from each one. If a car has an out-of-state license plate on the back, we check that state off the list. This yearly challenge is fun, addicting and sometimes a little wild.

Over the years we’ve become fairly familiar with each state’s plate, and in most cases a glance is all that’s needed to identify which state a number plate represents. There are some exceptions to this, though. For example, Ohio recently redesigned their number plate. It now looks a lot like North Dakota, and we have to pay close attention to be sure.

On the first day of the hunt, it’s not uncommon to see up to 35 different states. Plates like Indiana, Florida and Illinois are always easy to spot. Surprisingly, Alaska is also a quick find. It helps that the festival opens with the popular air show. This is especially true during those years featuring the Blue Angels, when we’ve seen such plates as Guam, Aruba, and the ever-elusive Hawaii.