Festival changes make waves

City Council says Coast Guard USA sign no longer allowed on Dewey Hill.
Alex Doty
Jun 4, 2013


Organizers of the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival promise big fun in a smaller package this year.

And while most things should be business as usual for the festival, missing will be the “Coast Guard City USA” sign atop Dewey Hill. Grand Haven City Council has said no to the signage.

A majority of council believes the 8-foot tall wooden letters damaged the grass and integrity of the hillside.

Councilman Bob Monetza said the big white lettering is also inappropriate for the hill setting.

“I fully recognize the value that the Coast Guard Festival is to the city,” he said. "I don't want to sound terribly negative about it, but I really don't like the letters on the hill.”

Coast Guard Festival Executive Director Mike Smith said he is disappointed with City Council’s decision.

"For 365 days of the year, the Nativity Scene lays flat on Dewey Hill," Smith said, noting that groups climb around the hill to put it up. “Maybe there is logic that I’m missing — but, if there is, I am missing it.”

City Manager Pat McGinnis said there is a special city property policy in place for the placement of the Nativity Scene, which is in operation in December. He said a non-municipal group puts the scene in place and pays the city a fee to cover rental of the land, any work by city staff and any remediation efforts.

Smith said he has not seen or heard of any evidence of dune degradation as a result of the placement of the Coast Guard City USA sign.

“Their actions show a lack of support,” Smith said of City Council’s decision.

Only one member of council supports keeping the letters on the hill — Mayor Geri McCaleb.

“I was pleased with the mayor’s leadership on the subject of the Coast Guard lettering on the hill, and disappointed that the other council members don’t seem to clearly understand the importance of Grand Haven as Coast Guard City USA,” Smith said.

Smith said he's received only praise from the community for the two years that the letters were in place.

“I am sure there will be an outpouring of support from the community,” he said of the missing letters.

Reaction to City Council's decision was swift.

On the Tribune’s Facebook page, Laurie Kelley posted Tuesday that she likes the letters on the hill.

“(I) thought the letters were a nice addition along with the new lighting on them and the anchor,” she wrote. “A (week's worth) of them being displayed can't be that damaging. Too bad to see them go.”

Roxanne Stanley also voiced her opposition to City Council's decision.

“Let tradition be,” she wrote. “Shame on you for wanting to mess with the history and traditions of that great Coast Guard City!!!”

Sandy Klaassen praised McCaleb for supporting the sign and chastised the rest of City Council.

"Thank you, Mayor Geri. At least you show your support," Klaassen posted. "What is wrong with the others? Ruin the grass? The letters were a nice touch for one week."

Despite the hill sign dispute, Smith expects that this year's festival, July 26 to Aug. 4, will be a good event. However, he said the federal government's budget squeeze will mean a little less U.S. Coast Guard presence at the festival.

“The Coast Guard Festival will be better than ever, but not bigger than ever,” Smith said. “Acknowledging the effects of sequestration, we will have two Coast Guard ships from the U.S., and we will have a reduced presence from the band.”

Smith noted that the cutters Mackinaw and Mobile Bay will be making an appearance, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Honor Guard and a new Hero-class patrol vessel from the Canadian Coast Guard.

“Our guests will not notice the changes we’ve made in light of the fiscal situation,” he said.

Festival-goers can also expect the National Memorial Service along the waterfront, the Grand Parade through town, the downtown carnival, various activities at Mulligan’s Hollow, entertainment at Waterfront Stadium and the grand finale fireworks show.

“We listen to our guests and try to bring back popular entertainment pieces, and see where we can improve on popular events,” Smith said.



So the fireworks that light the grass on fire isn't damaging either?


ok, stop trying to insight anger Tribube.

Magic Mike

What does this even mean?! It's an honest question Mr. Smith raises. Why can the nativity scene exist but not the Coast Guard sign? Don't both damage the hill. I'd expect the city to ban the nativity scene this Christmas, considering the latest action regarding the Coast Guard Festival's request.


I hate to admit it, but I too disagree with the decision. Sure, the lettering could have been done better (the letters are often crooked), but there are plenty of things that damage the dune far worse, such as unrestricted access to the public to the hill. People climbing the hill are eroding the dune FAR quicker than any stationary sign ever would yet nobody even attempts to stop those people.

As someone who often supports city council in their decisions (while many others here take shots at them every chance they get), I guess I just don't understand the reasoning behind their decision on this one.

great lakes chick

Really? Coast Guard City U.S.A. is Grand Haven's "claim to fame," and a true honor to Grand Haven and the coast line of Lake Michigan. I'm shocked that a nativity scene's installed up there as it is...this must damage the grass/hill. I am appalled, to say the least, at this decision. Honor our Coast Guard and put the signage back up and while you're at it ban the nativity scene as well. I'd say the signage for Coast Guard City is well, well above a nativity scene (That's another argument for another time). For shame on the City Council!!! Not pleased!


I think great lakes chick works for the tribune, I"m an ex-coastie and prefer the nativity scene well well above any Coast Guard City signage !


And, your discharge papers from the Coast Guard said your release was …………..?

You are that last person I would suspect showing disrespect for the military, in this case, the Coast Guard.


The Hollywood sign has been up for a long time in Hollywood California.. it didn't kill the eco-system in the area.. just saying


This is the Craziest thing I have read in a long time. This must save money some how so the city can subsidize 4th of July fireworks? No not that, too many tourists in town for that. Must be to subsidize the crazy sidewalk snow melt thing? Sure, must be that because nobody is in town in the dead of winter. We don't need to declare Grand Haven is Coast Guard City USA, everybody coming already knows! If the crazy city council had brains they would double our taxes so the city wouldn't be so broke all the time and we could continue to enjoy our lives the same way we are used to.


Uh oh guys, I smell an "Our Views" from the Tribune coming. Expect it to be extremely hard hitting.


It's upsetting that council members are claiming "grass problems" are the reason they are removing letters that show our gratitude/support to members of the Military. I would like to see that study, and how wooden angels (which were left laying flat on the hill for many months following Christmas)cause no damage. The amount of money that the city makes off of the festival is astounding...you would think that they would leave one of the few elements that actually references the Coast Guard.


Parts of the nativity lays on the hill all year covered by burlap. So how much grass is growing there? Maybe its time to eliminate so many members of council. Seems they don't have much to do except on rule on whether or not a few letters should stand on on hill for a few weeks. Don't become Muskegon. As they manage to screw up anything that was ever good in there town, because of a few people who got on power trips.


Is Dewey Hill owed by the tax payers of Grand Haven City??? if so maybe we should ask the tax payers instead of 7 people who work for the tax payers... I know this is will start a hornet nest but... why are we using the city property for a religious nativity scene then... Maybe its time for a recall vote for these bonehead decisions....


Couldn't agree more, the council member gave his personal opinion in stating "I personally don't like the letters". Who gives a crap what his personal opinion is? That is not your job to give your personal opinion, you work for the people of Grand Haven. Check the job description.


Yeah, well therein lies the problem with most every politician in the entire country. Their little, twisted, narcissistic minds think that because you voted them into office, you want them to do what THEY think is best for you, not what YOU think is best for you. It's hard to find one that'll do what's best for the populace because once they're in office they use the office to push their own agenda.
Just my rather cynical opinion of politicians in general.


This is a very unwise decision, bordering on foolish. That sign is a classy way of showing all of our Coast Guard guests and visitors too that our devotion to them is here to stay. (Just like the Hollywood sign is there for keeps) It has become an icon. I think it should be there all summer long. Come on City Council, lighten up. Take some precautions if you need to. Put deep posts in the ground or what ever it takes to keep the sand from eroding but keep the sign up!

Grand Haven Happy

Grow up city council and quit acting like idiots! Put the damn "Coast Guard City USA" Signage back up on Dewey Hill for the Festival and make sure the letters are straight. Grade school kids make more sensible decisions than you childish council members do!

No One Special

Mike Smith is right, this shows a lack of support - - - for the Coast Guard, our military, and the community. Thank you mayor. The rest of you doofuses shouldn't be surprised if the Coast Guard closes the doors one day soon and bids the city farewell. In addition to the "big white inappropriate letters" on the hill there should be a long red carpet for the Coast Guard. I hope the council (mayor excluded) refrains from campaigning in the parade this year. "I don't want to sound terribly negative about it, but I really don't like the big, dumb, white guys on the parade float."


Hey Frankfort and Two Rivers, looking for a festival? Down here we got a City Council that has something against the Coast Guard.

And, Bob and your cohorts don’t even think of riding in my car during the parade.


I think the sign looked great.


I think the sign looked great.


Yeah, what is that about the nativity scene on city owned property? Where is the Menorah, or other symbols of other belief systems. Not everyone that lives in the Grand Haven area are Christians. The Coast Guard sign damages the hill, and the nativity scene and the fireworks do not? Does all of this make some kind of sense? Again, this area needs to catch up to the 21st century.


Mayor Geri McCaleb is right


Lets call City Hall and tell them we want that sign put up- 616-847-4888.


Ray Charles could have seen that the decision regarding the Coast Guard sign would call into question the Nativity Scene, but the Wizards of Smart on the City Counsel and the city attorney couldn't? It's almost as if they were calling for a challenge to the practice of having a Nativity Scene on the hill. I wonder if this whole mess was spurred by environmentalist zealots . . .


The City of Grand Haven is all to happy to capitalize on being "Coast Guard City," but won't allow a sign on the hill? Very short-sighted, and somewhat rapacious.
Where are the people of this city? Why do they not see what has happened: failed development projects, lack of response to public concerns, expensive snow-melt systems that are rising in cost - when do people see that they can voice their opinions and take action?


Quin, the City doesn't seem to care. Maybe if more showed up at the council sessions they'd listen. I hear every word you sayin and totally agree.


Real nice Grand Haven, real nice. I wouldn't be surprised if the Coast Guard doesn't come next year because of this. I guess were lucky to have the ships and the band that were getting this year because of the budget hunts announced in a prior article from the Coast Guard. How many years have the signs been going up? Longer than I've been on this planet, now your worried about some damage to the dune grass? The Council needs to pull their heads out of their arses, wipe the crap off their face and see the real impact this going to have on the festivities. Isn't this suppose to be Coast Guard city USA? Well your ef'n that up now aren't we? Sure spend all my tax dollars to make this town something special to attract tourism then screw it all up? Where's your brains? You the council seriously need to rethink this and put the signage up! Is there's that much damage done to the hillside from this? probably not, if there is show us! Us lifelong residents of this town pay YOU the city councils salaries, it time you listen to us! If the City cant afford to put the Coast Guard letters up, I'm sure us residents can volunteer our time and effort to put them up and take them down. All your doing is kicking the Coast Guard and its service men/women who are stationed here right between the legs on this whole deal. Put the signage up and give some respect to the people who service this country and protect this towns waterways on a daily basis, is that to much to ask for?


And en EDIT button would be nice Tribune, I cant even fix a typo for pete's sake.


Agree with ghresident about typo edit ability for comments!



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