What's new this year?

Alex Doty • Jun 7, 2018 at 10:00 AM

A week before a prelude to the annual Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival featuring a memorial service honoring the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the cutter Escanaba, organizers have revealed a bit more about this year’s upcoming festival.

“The main character of the festival has remained the same,” Coast Guard Festival Executive Director Mike Smith told Grand Haven City Council on Monday night, referencing the popular, recurring events like the parades, cardboard boat race, senior citizens and kids days, downtown carnival, and car show.

What is changing — and what festival organizers are working through — is the new Waterfront Stadium and its affect on the festival’s waterfront entertainment, Smith noted.

“That will present many new opportunities,” he said. “We’re still working through some details because they’re still working through some details on the property itself.”

Smith said there will be a temporary seating arrangement along the new stadium tiers for the festival shows this year, giving people a defined place to sit.

“When you buy a ticket to the festival (waterfront entertainment), you’ll be purchasing a chair,” he said. “I think it will work aesthetically and I think it will be really cool.”

The plan, Smith explained, is to place the acts directly centered on the pavement, or as close to the pavement as possible, so that everyone in attendance is looking straight down at the stage.

Smith noted that the lineup for the stadium entertainment is a mix of acts performing classic hits to modern pop music.

Also of note, Smith said, is that the scope of the Coast Guard Festival softball tournament is set to increase compared to years past. This is due to the size of the crew of the present Escanaba and the number of other Coast Guard ships that will be in port for the festival, July 27 to Aug. 5.

“The Escanaba alone has 100 people on board, and that’s the largest U.S. Coast Guard ship,” Smith said, noting that there will be four other U.S. Coast Guard vessels in attendance.

The Canadian Coast Guard also wants to fill the void of the absence of the Mackinaw, and will have one of its icebreakers in Grand Haven for this year’s festival.

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