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Coast Guard Festival memories and embarrassments

Mark Brooky • Jul 31, 2018 at 3:00 PM

The highlight of my summers in Grand Haven has long been the Coast Guard Festival. How can you not love the festive atmosphere and big crowds, the carnival blocking the downtown thoroughfare, and the Sunday after?

Having grown up in a big city, I kind of enjoy the cosmopolitan feel of the swollen population the festival brings to Grand Haven. But I also enjoy the Sunday after Coast Guard Saturday, when the waterfront is mostly “ours” again.

And I am always amazed at the wee-hours-of-the-morning work by city crews who clean up after the fireworks crowd leaves town.

I’ve spent nearly 20 years in the Grand Haven Tribune newsroom, but my involvement in and love of the annual festival goes back further.

For a few years in the early 1990s, I had the privilege of being one of the announcers along the Grand Parade route. That was fun. It was also a little dangerous.

The stands where the announcers sat, to get up above the thousands of other parade-watchers, were a little rickety. You had to climb up some scaffolding not meant for climbing and sit there for about two hours to describe each entry as it passed that point.

You also had to hope no one accidentally cut the power to your public address system. That did happen once, and a few entries went by without my section of the crowd being informed on what they probably could figure out for themselves.

Still, it was a lot of fun being a part of Grand Haven’s big day.

I’ve marched in the parade a few times, too — as part of a Tribune entry and with the staff at Loutit District Library, where my wife once worked. I’ve also enjoyed just watching the parade as a spectator — mostly in recent years, and that has been the most fun of all.

Of course, I’ve covered the parade as a reporter and videographer when the Tribune had a big push to include videos on our website. Some of my biggest embarrassments as a journalist involve video and the Coast Guard Festival.

Once I was setting up a shot for a brief interview with a couple of festival-goers, and the camera — a professional piece, and a large investment — slipped out of the tripod clip and fell to the cement at Waterfront Stadium.

It landed with a thud. So did my heart.

I thought for sure that it was damaged beyond repair, and my paychecks for many months would be going to replacing it.

To my amazement, the camera worked and nothing was broken, save for the tripod clip.

I’m not sure anyone knew about that incident, until now.

I believe it was the next year when I did something embarrassing again at the festival. Again, at Waterfront Stadium and, again, with the expensive video camera.

I was going to try to capture some video of the fireworks show and positioned myself directly behind a row of Coast Guard dignitaries. We got a fancy light for the camera that year, so I wondered what effect it would have on my shot if I turned it on.

I clicked the light on, and it lit up way too much. I fumbled with the switch in what felt like an eternity to get it turned off.

I’ll never forget the Coast Guard officer sitting in front of me, now illuminated, turning around a couple of times in irritation.

I wasn’t sure, but I might have violated some Homeland Security provision. So, I quickly packed up the gear and moved to a different spot.

What memories will the 2018 Coast Guard Festival bring to me and you? I hope good ones. Enjoy!

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