The West Michigan lakeshore’s most patriotic summer festival brims with what one fan called “a small town feel and big time fun.” It’s a 10-day mix of the military and the just plain entertaining, with a carnival, tribute bands, parades, craft and quilt fairs, a street dance and other events all over “Coast Guard City, USA” and a bit beyond.
At the heart of the festival are public and private events honoring retired and active duty members of America’s armed services, including the National Coast Guard Memorial Service on August 4, open to all.
Coast Guard ships
To watch the July 31 Parade of Ships as Coast Guard vessels and other boats come up the river from Lake Michigan to Escanaba Park (half a mile short of downtown), walk west toward the lighthouse on the waterfront boardwalk. A fresh mix of ships will be in port this year. Tour them for free through August 5. (Times vary; check festival app or online schedule.)
Among the perennially popular events . . .
Cardboard Boat Race (to participate, preregister)
Cruise-in Car Show and picnic at Coast Guard Park in Ferrysburg
And a recent addition to the event roster . . .
Waterball Competition Coasties and Grand Haven public safety officers and firefighters in a very wet tug-of-war
The logistical lowdown
Over 10 days, 350,000 festival goers are expected, so thinking ahead about parking and getting around will be time well spent. The final weekend is usually the busiest.
• Download the festival app at tickets.coastguardfest.org/events.
• Access a parking map at tickets.coastguardfest.org/parking-information. Also posted there: details of free shuttle between downtown and parking lots in Grand Haven and nearby towns on August 5.
The final major event is the fireworks show on August 5. Fairs, food trucks and other fun will continue one day more.
Urban St. magazine is distributed to residents and visitors of the lakeshore communities of Holland, Zeeland, Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Saugatuck, Douglas, Fennville, Muskegon, Nunica, Port Sheldon and West Olive at numerous pick-up locations including attractions, retailers, restaurants, hotels and salons/spas.