Over 30 years ago, Traverse City lost the Guinness World Records‘ Cherry Pie’s biggest title ever. Two brothers hope to bring him back to town. It won’t be easy. Nonetheless, Dakota and Garret Porter think they have what it takes to make it happen.
As teenagers, they started a business that sells LED lights for snowboards and other sports equipment. To do this, at ages 13 and 16, they had to turn to their community for help.
“As kids, we didn’t know much, did we? I mean, we were starting a business from scratch and we were still in school,” Dakota Porter said. “And so we’ve gained a lot of mentors…and the community has really helped and guided us in the right direction.”
The business, Action Glow, was a success, and ten years later they want to tap into their community again for help baking a really big cake.
They got curious last year when they wondered why Traverse City and Charlevoix had giant pie pans on display at their city limits. That’s when they learned that Traverse City had lost the record for the biggest cake in the world.
“At first we got angry, but our anger quickly turned into determination,” Garret Porter said. “We have decided to bring this title back to Traverse City once and for all.”
Charlevoix was the first to win the world record in 1976. It all started when Dave Phillips, owner of the Gray Gables Inn in Charlevoix, wanted to do something to celebrate the bicentennial. An employee suggested a world record, and Phillips liked the idea. He figured that since George Washington loved cherries, why not make a huge cherry pie?
Phillips ordered an oversized pie pan and the construction of a brick oven. Then he gathered the huge amount of ingredients for the pie.
On the day of the event, Phillips dusted the pie with sugar from a helicopter just before it was baked. The record was international news and prompted a congratulatory letter from President Gerald Ford.
Later, a Traverse City man named Bob Underwood was upset that the record was not in Traverse City, the cherry capital of the world. He put together his own attempt and won the Charlevoix title in 1987 with a pie event at Espace Ouvert.
However, just three years later, a small town in Canada — Oliver, British Columbia — dove and took the record. Oliver’s pie weighed over 37,721 pounds, crushing Traverse City’s record pie, which was only 27,000 pounds.
For years, it was thought that it was too expensive to try to regain the record. But the Porter brothers believe they can beat Oliver’s record – even if they get weird reactions from people when they tell them their plan.
“At first, it’s a joke. That’s for sure. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, that’s funny, you’re going to bake a pie.’ But once we start explaining the details, you can tell they start to get a little outdated,” Dakota Porter said. “I mean, there’s a lot of things that have to fall into place perfectly for that to happen.”
Garret Porter said the brothers have been busy since the start of the year working on logistics: aligning pie pan manufacturing, transportation, sourcing cherries and working to secure government approvals. They were also in contact with Guinness representatives and learned the strict parameters they must follow to qualify for a world record.
The Porters want to deter would-be record thieves. So they hope to bake a pie that weighs 50,000 pounds. They have tentative approval from Traverse City officials to hold their world record attempt on the first Saturday in August at Open Space. City Clerk Benjamin Marentette said he was awaiting a request from the brothers, including their specific plans. Then the city will make a final decision.
Some people think there’s no way Traverse City can reclaim the record. Dakota Porter said they didn’t mind.
“We get a lot of skepticism,” he said, “but it’s nothing we’re not used to, and we’re always up for the challenge of proving these people wrong.”
If they did, it would be a huge event for Traverse City. They hope to serve 40,000 people in cherry pie in one day.