GRAND HAVEN, Mich. - It's one of the biggest events on the lakeshore and it gets underway Friday, July 26. The 95th Annual Coast Guard Festival is kicking off in Grand Haven. The festival has lasted for nine and a half decades by appealing to people of all ages.
Organizers are expecting 300,000 to 350,000 people in Coast Guard City USA. This festival started out as a small picnic, back in 1924. Over the years it has grown into one of the premiere festivals in West Michigan.
However, this year organizers are scaling back to try and make things a little safer and more easily accessible. Changes include fewer vendors and a new location for them on "Vendor Row". Vendors used to set up in the Municipal Marina parking lot. That location will now be used as an access point to the waterfront and as an area to house portable restrooms.
Carnival hours have also been shortened and will now wrap up before midnight. Those changes and a heavy focus on security are designed to make this festival a great experience.
"Obviously we want this to be as safe a it possibly can. So, boots on the ground and resources that are visible to the public. And, then eyes on the crowd to make sure people are doing what they are supposed to be doing," says Captain Clint Holt with the Grand Haven Dept. of Public Safety.
"It is very crowded downtown. This is a city designed for 11,000 people and the streets are absolutely packed. Be patient with one another. Expect traffic backups. It is going to happen. Expect lines for the food vendors and carnivals. It is going to be shoulder to shoulder."
Some things are not changing, however. One of them is the no-alcohol policy at the festival. Officers will be checking for that.
On a brighter note, as always, you can count on being wowed with popular parades, concerts and fireworks shows this festival is known for. And, the true purpose of the festival lives on as well. That is to honor the men and women who serve in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Click here for a schedule of events.
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