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How we became Coast Guard City, USA

Alex Doty • May 18, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Grand Haven’s relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard is being celebrated this summer with the Tri-Cities Historical Museum’s newest exhibit.

The exhibit, which opened today at the museum, 200 Washington Ave., tells the story of how Grand Haven became Coast Guard City, USA and how the relationship between the city and Coast Guard came to be.

“We’ve always had a very special bond with the Coast Guard in this community, so we wanted to acknowledge that and explore the history of that with this exhibit,” said Mike VerHulst, the exhibits facilitator for the local museum.

Roughly 60 pieces of Coast Guard and Coast Guard Festival artifacts are featured in the exhibit, including ship models, documents, uniforms and past festival memorabilia.

“And the big star of the show is the Fresnel lens that used to be in the lighthouse,” said VerHulst, noting that the lens is his favorite item in the exhibit.

RELATED: VERHULST: Why Grand Haven is Coast Guard City, USA 

“I used to work at a lighthouse, and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for them,” he added. “They are beautiful pieces of technology, and they’re gorgeous to look at, too.”

VerHulst said there was a lot of information to work from when putting the exhibit together.

“There’s just so much information about this topic and, unfortunately, I can’t include it all in here because there’d be way too much information for this space,” he said.

Items in the exhibit are a mix of artifacts that were once on display in the now-closed Depot Museum of Transportation or kept in the museum’s archives.

“When we moved out of that space (the Depot), we brought a lot of that here,” VerHulst said. “We also brought a lot of things out of storage to display here.”

The exhibit will be open through the summer months, including the week of this year’s Coast Guard Festival, July 27 through Aug. 5.

“We always get increased traffic during Coast Guard Festival, but I think with the Coast Guard-specific exhibit we’re going to get a lot more traffic through here,” VerHulst said. “Hopefully, people can learn about the Tri-Cities history and their relationship with the Coast Guard.”

The Tri-Cities Historical Museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 12-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. More information can be found by visiting tri-citiesmuseum.org or by calling 616-842-0700.

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