Family Fun at Coast Guard picnic

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:52 PM

The Prevailing Winds Community Band provided comfortable background music as area residents munched on hot dogs and barbeque, all part of the Coast Guard Festival Community Picnic.

Jim and Carol Contratto of Tampa, Fla., chose to sit under the picnic shelter as they observed the activities.

The retired Coast Guard chief warrant officer – originally from Bessemer – said it’s long been on his bucket list to visit Grand Haven during Coast Guard Festival.

Although he’s been retired from the service almost as long as the 28 years he served, Jim said the Coast Guard was very important to him. He’s looking forward to participating in as much of it as he can before he has to head home later in the week.

He’s liked his reception so far, as have the new Coast Guard commanding officers in town.

Senior Chief Justin Olson, who has been in command of Station Grand Haven for just over a month, said he’s never seen a community embrace the Coast Guard and their families as much as Grand Haven has.

“This is my seventh duty station,” Olson said. “I’ve never witnessed anything like this.”

Olson’s wife, Richelle and their four children finally joined him in town on Saturday, just in time for his anniversary and Coast Guard Festival.

“What a great welcome,” he said.

The new Sector Field Office Grand Haven commander agreed.

“The community here has been very welcoming,” said Lt. Aaron Urbanawiz, who has been on the job just a couple of weeks. “It’s overwhelming the support we’ve got so far.”

Darrin Kimsey of Elgin, Ill., and his family, dressed in matching “Be Calm and Coast On” t-shirts, relaxed as they listened to the community band.

“I’ve never been here before,” said the Coast Guard Reserves member. “I’ve been in for 26 years and this is the best place I’ve ever been stationed.”

Participants at the picnic were welcomed by Coast Guard Festival volunteers and staff.

Spring Lake Boy Scout Troop 37 provided food and games for the picnic. Horse rides, a petting zoo and an animal rescue were also at the park.

The final event of the day, a K-9 demonstration put on by deputies Jeff Somers and Jeremy Osbun of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department, gave the scouts a chance to participate in some of the fun.

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