The Coast Guard Festival carnival started Tuesday and continues today from 2-11 p.m., and Saturday beginning at 11:30 a.m. until 1 a.m. Sunday.
Wristbands for unlimited rides cost $20 today and $15 from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Only tickets will be sold after 4 p.m. Saturday.
It’s the fourth year that the Skerbeck Family Carnival has joined the annual festival and provided rides and games from Third Street to Harbor Drive.
This year marked the first time that 4-year-old Emily Reeves had the chance to enjoy the rides.
As Trisha Benaway waited for her young daughter to finish riding the Berry-Go-Round, she said they also visited the large slide and had others in mind to ride.
Emily was delighted by the carnival.
“I just love it so much,” she said.
The carnival is the festival’s top fundraiser, according to Festival Board Chairman and co-carnival chair Scott Klaassen.
Although the festival and carnival draw large crowds for only a week, its impact is year-round. Proceeds from it are used to re-invest and build relationships with Coast Guard men and women, Klaassen said. One example is providing gifts for Grand Haven station personnel expecting a child.
Although the carnival offers thrills, Klaassen said the National Memorial Service, which takes place at 4 p.m. today at Escanaba Park, is the real purpose for the annual festival. The service honors members of the guard who have lost their lives throughout the past year.
“Our main mission is to honor men and women of the Coast Guard,” Klaassen said.
Visiting the carnival
Clouds parted and the sun shined as more than 200 Ottawa Area Center students visited the carnival Thursday morning.
Each year, the carnival sets aside time so OAC students can have the carnival to themselves. The center serves students ages 3-26 who have mental and physical impairments or behavioral challenges.
Baker College’s physical therapy students volunteered to work with students on Thursday so they could enjoy the rides.
Each OAC student also received a stuffed animal and lunch. Covenant Life Church provided a location for the group to cool down and address any medical needs.
OAC Assistant Director Julia Plaggemeyer said it’s amazing that so many people worked together to make it a special day for the students.
OAC Director JoAnne Thorsen said they appreciate everyone’s efforts and flexibility.
“It’s a day of fun-filled activities for students,” she said.