Pat Sullivan, who grows cherries along the Columbia River north of Pasco, Washington, was crowned the 2023 Cherry King on Jan. 13 at the annual Cherry Institute in Yakima.
“It’s a long career that I’ve had, you know, 30, 30-plus years,” Sullivan said as he donned the gold crown at the event’s luncheon, hosted by the Northwest Cherry Growers. “I got to meet a lot of great people, and a lot of them turned out to be good friends and fishing buddies and things like that.”
Sullivan, the 78th winner of the crown, grew up in the cherry business as one of nine kids helping his parents, Robert and Marilyn, farm tree fruit and row crops, according to a presentation speech read by Dena Ybarra, the outgoing Cherry Queen. As a boy, Sullivan was impressed working alongside a seasonal one-armed laborer from Oklahoma who worked efficiently.
“Our king marveled at the man’s work ethic and positive attitude,” Ybarra said.
In the 1980s, Sullivan and his brother, Kevin, planted their own cherry orchards. Today, he has roughly 100 acres with a focus on high-density early varieties. He also grows apricots, peaches and nectarines, and he has recently planted hazelnuts.
He is a father of three — Conner, who helps manage the farm; Sydney, a Florida nurse; and Liam, a hay and potato grower.
He is the immediate past chair of the Washington State Fruit Commission and a member of the Columbia Basin Tree Fruit Club. He also has served on the Washington Apricot Marketing Committee.
The Cherry King is nominated each year by past title winners, in recognition of their industry contributions. No king was crowned in 2022 due to complications of weather and COVID-19.
—by Ross Courtney