GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival has announced that Executive Board Chair Sharon Behm will serve as the festival’s interim executive director in the wake of Mike Smith’s death.
Smith was 70 years old. The retired Coast Guard commander served as the festival’s executive director for 17 years.
Behm told the Grand Haven Tribune that Smith had notified the board prior to his death that he planned to step down from his role soon.
“It was no secret that Mike was stepping down, but at this point, we decided to suspend the search when he passed away,” Behm told the Tribune. “The executive board felt we needed somebody that people could go to other than just the staff, and the most logical person was myself, as the president.”
Festival organizers also announced that retired Commander Tracy Riley, the board’s executive vice chair, will assume Behm’s role atop the executive board.
Nicknamed Coast Guard City, U.S.A., Grand Haven has long held a tie to the specialized military branch. The festival unofficially began in 1924 as a special picnic held just for Coast Guard personnel. The first festival was held in 1937 and has grown into a major event along the lakeshore. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Grand Haven during the festival, including high-ranking Coast Guard dignitaries.
This year’s festival runs from July 28 through August 6, including the Grand Parade on Saturday, Aug. 5. You can find the full calendar of events at the festival’s website.