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Boy wins ribbon for festival speech

Tribune Staff • Jul 26, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Ten-year-old Hayden Simmons lives in Florida, but the highlight of his year is Grand Haven’s annual Coast Guard Festival. 

How deep does his love for the festival run? The youngster recently wrote a speech that celebrates his yearly visit to the festival. That speech took second place in a competition at Vernon Elementary School in Vernon, Florida. 

Hayden comes from a long line of Coasties. His great-grandfather was a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard and stationed in Traverse City. 

“Because of my family’s love for the festival, Hayden has caught on and he wrote his speech about how much he loves the festival,” said Hayden’s mom, Laurie Simmons. “One of his favorites is the Coast Guard Walk of History they do each year. Hayden has had his picture taken at every spot. He says it’s like a treasure hunt going and finding all of them. He has kept the pictures in a photo book and remembers all of them.”

Here is Hayden’s speech: 

Every year since I can remember, I look forward to the first full weekend in August. No, not because its Possum Festival, it's because it’s the Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven, Michigan. Grand Haven is Coast Guard City USA as designated by President Clinton in 1998 because of the entire town’s support and love for the Coast Guard. Also, during World War II, a Coast Guard cutter from Grand Haven sank.

The weeklong festival celebrates everything Coast Guard and it's so much fun! It kicks off Monday with the parade of ships. Coast Guard ships like the Mackinaw and even ones from Canada come into the Grand Haven harbor. My family and I sit on the boardwalk and cheer with thousands of others as the boats pass by. Last year, my sister Megan got to ride in on the Mackinaw and it was so cool!

Every night there is a concert in the waterfront stadium and people stay and wait for the Musical Fountain, as well.

Each year on Friday there is a dedication of the Walks of History. A new plaque goes up in Grand Haven every year to celebrate a point in Coast Guard history. This I really like because they have a map, and going and finding each one is like a treasure hunt. My Nana took my picture at each one.

The finale on Saturday is my favorite part. First at noon is the Grand Parade that lasts over two hours and my candy bag is always full. Then, when it gets dark, we go into the stadium and watch the best fireworks ever.

I hope I don't ever have to miss a festival, after all I am a fourth-generation member of a historical Coast Guard family and I think they would miss me!

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