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Escanaba visit highlights 2018 festival

Krystle Wagner • Aug 14, 2018 at 2:00 PM

2018 was a “very special year” for the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, said the festival’s executive director, Mike Smith.

In addition to current U.S. Coast Guard personnel and former commanding officers of the Coast Guard cutter Escanaba, 94 direct decedents of the lives lost aboard the first Escanaba in 1943 attended this year’s festival. The special guests participated in a picnic and dinner.

After a year of planning, Smith said seeing the individuals in Grand Haven to honor the Escanaba was “incredible.”

“It couldn’t have gone better,” he said.

Although there isn’t an official tally on festival attendees, Smith said more tickets were sold this year and it appeared as though more people attended the events. He also noted the fireworks show continues to be a “spectacular” ending to the festival, and this year wasn’t any different.

The new Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium was also home to many festival events, which Smith said added “significant expenses.” He said they had the opportunity to view entertainment in different ways with a new stage. He noted they provided seats for the events, which he said people commented that they appreciated.

In addition to the 21-member board who bring the festival vision to life, more than 700 volunteers help make the festival possible.

Smith thanked the city for its cooperation in allowing the festival to take place. He also thanked citizens who make their love for the Coast Guard prominent in their homes and by the comments they make to Coast Guard guests.

Although it’s been a week since the festival ended, officials are already beginning to look ahead to 2019. Smith said they’re evaluating what did and didn’t work so that they can make improvements. With a growing number of people attending, Smith said there continues to be concerns, and they’re looking at changes that might include venues and hours of operation.

Smith said it isn’t their intention to be bigger, but instead to be better every year.

“It will be the best ever,” he said in anticipation of next year’s festival.

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