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10 things you need to know about the Coast Guard Festival

Dylan Goetz • Jul 24, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Grand Haven’s weeklong celebration to remember and honor those who serve in the U.S. Coast Guard is almost here. Here are 10 things you need to know about the upcoming Coast Guard Festival.

What is the Coast Guard Festival?

The annual festival is designed to honor those who serve our country in the Coast Guard. This is where the National Coast Guard Memorial Service takes place each year. Unofficially beginning in 1924, the festival now brings more than 350,000 people to the Grand Haven area, according to visitgrandhaven.com.

When does the festival run?

This year’s events begin Friday, July 27, and wrap up Sunday, Aug. 5. For a full schedule, visit coastguardfest.org/events.

What are the most popular events?

The National Memorial Service honoring fallen U.S. Coast Guard members will take place at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3. It is open to the public and takes place at Escanaba Park.

The Cardboard Boat Race on Saturday, July 28, is a unique event, while the final Saturday’s Grand Parade and fireworks show draw the largest crowds.

When is the carnival?

The carnival begins Tuesday, July 31, from 6-11 p.m. It continues Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 2-11 p.m.; and Saturday, Aug. 4, from noon to 1 a.m. 

Where can I park?

Public parking is available but limited in downtown Grand Haven. Harbor Transit offers a “Park and Ride” shuttle service to the events on Saturday, Aug. 4. For $1, the shuttle will pick up passengers from Griffin Elementary School, Trinity Reformed Church, First Christian Reformed Church and Ferry Elementary School in Grand Haven. In Ferrysburg, the shuttle will pick up passengers at the City Hall. In Spring Lake, the shuttle will make stops at the Spring Lake Presbyterian Church and the First Baptist Church.

Who will be performing at Waterfront Stadium?

Bands that will be performing include The Boy Band Project, Crush: A Bon Jovi Tribute Band, Brena, Lakeshore Big Band, The System: A Bob Seger Tribute Band, Hotel California: An Eagles Tribute Band, and a Material Girls Tribute band (covering Madonna, Cher, Lady Gaga and Adele). Brena is the only performance with free general admission; the Material Girls Tribute is the most expensive at $25.

What U.S. Coast Guard ships will be in attendance?

This year’s festival is focusing on the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Escanaba during World War II. To honor the sunken ship, the current cutter named Escanaba will visit Grand Haven’s port during the festival. Five other ships will visit the Grand Haven port — the Hollyhock buoy tender, the Neah Bay icebreaker, the Morro Bay icebreaker, the Buckthorn cutter and the Canadian Constable Carriere patrol vessel. Ship tours are offered daily throughout the festival, beginning Monday, July 30, from 6-8 p.m. Touring the ships allows you to climb aboard and get a behind-the-scenes look at the vessels, from the sleeping quarters to the galley to the control deck.  

What sporting events are going on during the festival?

Golf, softball and pickleball tournaments will be taking place during the festival. The Tri-Cities Family YMCA is also hosting a Coast Guard Festival run on Saturday, July 28. The pickleball tournament will take place Aug. 1 at the Mulligan’s Hollow tennis courts.

How do I save a spot for the fireworks show?

At 12:01 a.m. Friday, Aug. 3, the public can place sheets, caution tape, golf tees and chairs on public property to reserve their spot for the fireworks show and Grand Parade. Tents, plastic tarps and duct tape are all prohibited because they could kill the grass or present a tripping hazard. Illegal tarps will be removed by the city.

Where does the Meijer Grand Parade take place?

The biggest parade of the festival is a two-hour show that features marching bands, clowns, military units and local dignitaries. The parade also features a show in the middle of the parade called “Mardi Gras meets Broadway.” The parade starts on Sheldon Road near Colfax Avenue, and travels north to Franklin Avenue where it turns left. The parade will then take two rights onto Washington Avenue to Seventh Street. After taking another right on Seventh, the parade will end near Grant Avenue.

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