GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flock to the lakeshore beginning this weekend for the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival.
Festival officials say the 10-day event normally draws 300,000 to 350,000 people to Grand Haven.
New this year: free performances by the United States Coast Guard band. Coast Guard Festival organizers say the Festival Idol competition is also free this year, and the winner will get a silver ticket to an audition for American Idol.
The Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival will include ship tours, carnival rides, live performances, a cardboard boat race and a car show.
A national Coast Guard memorial service will take place Aug. 2.
“All the ships are lined up, and you can go on the ship tour so that’s probably something that you don’t want to miss,” Coast Guard Festival Marketing Director Annie Lengkeek said of the service.
The festival will cap off Aug. 3 with a parade down Washington Avenue at 11:45 a.m. and fireworks at night.
Organizers say carnival rides will stop an hour earlier this year to help disperse crowds as night falls.
“We’re just trying to make it safe and fun,” Lengkeek said.
Visitors to the Coast Guard Festival are encouraged to stay on land Saturday. The National Weather Service warns dangerous waves and currents are expected on Lake Michigan, with red flags expected to fly on beaches from Saugatuck northward.
Coast Guard festival-goers can sign up for text alerts about events, traffic and emergencies. The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety says the messaging system will be active from Tuesday morning through Saturday night. Those interested can sign up by texting coastguard2019 to 226787.