2019 Coast Guard Festival | Grand Haven, MI
If you didn’t already know, Grand Haven, MI has the nickname “Coast Guard City, USA.” This is more than just a nickname though, it is an official designation by Congress and the President of the United States as of 1998. The name comes from the annual Coast Guard Festival that takes place in Grand Haven every year at the end of July. This event lasts for 10 days, starting the last weekend in July and running into August. The purpose is to honor the Coast Guard and draw focus to the National Coast Guard Memorial Service. The NCGMS exists to honor those who have sacrificed their lives in service of our country. This festival is quite popular in West Michigan and draws in quite a large crowd. Last year, around 350,000 people were in attendance over the 10 day span.
History of the Festival
The festival unofficially began in 1924. An annual picnic began every summer for U.S. Coast Guard personnel. This picnic would include rowing competitions for members stationed at Grand Haven. By 1937, this had grown to a festival for the entire city. In August of 1971, Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, Inc became official. This made the organization of the event a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Coast Guard Festival has become quite popular over the years. Almost too popular. The traffic in the area can be quite hectic during the festival, especially during the weekends. Security is another concern, as more people means more potential for problems. This is a primary factor in some of the changes for this year, but we will discus those later on.
The Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is one of the 7 branches of the United States Armed Forces. This brach was created by congress on August 4th, 1970, and is the oldest, continuous service of the seas for the United States. The core values of the service include honor, respect, and devotion to duty. The motto of the United States Coast Guard is “SEMPER PARATUS”, which means “Always Ready.” The Coast Guard may be the smallest branch of the United States Armed Forces, but it is still the 12th largest naval force in the world. The Coast Guard was also the biggest contributer in the rescue efforts for Hurricane Katrina.
There are a number of events every year at Coast Guard Festival. Some of these are consistent each year, while others vary. This year there have been a few changes. These changes are due to a year over year increase in visitors. Grand Haven is not a large city, so a couple hundred thousand people can be a bit much. One of these changes includes the limitation of vendors and food trucks. They have been completely removed from Escanaba Park and the Municipal Marina Parking Lot. On Harbor Drive, there will be food trucks, but the number has gone down to 15 instead of 21.
The Coast Guard Festival also boasts a singing competition, Festival Idol. This part of the festival is not new, but there is a new prize. This year, the winner will receive an American Idol Silver Ticket. This ticket allows them to skip several steps in the audition process. This will put them in an audition directly in front of producers, giving them a better chance at making it on the show.
This year the Coast Guard Ship Parade will not be taking place. This was not a change that was in the plan, but as a precautionary measure. High waves, strong winds, and heavy currents are reasons behind this cancellation. Along with this, swim advisories were put out. Swimming at the Grand Haven State Park was highly discouraged, as well as walking the pier. Large waves could sweep people off the pier. Strong rip currents could also pull people out to deeper water, away from the shore. The ships from the parade are still available to tour.