We got through it: Coast Guard Festival success after year off

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Coast Guard City USA is resting easy after its annual festival in Grand Haven wrapped up Sunday.

“On the Sunday after Coast Guard Festival is the day we’re finally able to exhale,” Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis said. “We’ve been holding our breath planning for weeks, months even, so when we get through it and it was a grand slam home run like it was once again, it’s time to take a deep breath.”

The Coast Guard Festival kicked off July 30, making a big return after the event was called off last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was the first time the festival was canceled since it began in 1937, McGinnis said.

“This year just a little more intense than other years … everybody was really anxious wondering is it going to be as good as it always has been? And we got a resounding yes,” McGinnis said.

The annual celebration honors the men and women serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.

“This is their birthday party, this is the place to be and we’re very proud of that,” he said.

McGinnis said this year’s turnout was on par with years past as the festival typically brings in about 350,000 people each year.

“You could only fit so many people in town, and I think we fit all the sugar in the sack that can fit in there,” he said.

Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Nicholas Knott told News 8 there were no major crime incidents during the festival, saying they should have more precise numbers about citations on Monday.

The wave of tourists brought a much-needed boost to the local economy.

“It helps our local businesses and it’s going to help rebuild what we lost during the COVID year,” Grand Haven resident Jodie DeHoek said.

While COVID-19 concerns were still a factor in planning the event, Ottawa County health officials used the opportunity to get more shots in arms.

“We also had a pop-up vaccine clinic, and they did more than they expected,” McGinnis said. “I’m not sure exactly how many (people) they ended up vaccinating, but I know they were excited.”

While the end of the festival is always bittersweet, its return has brought back a sense of normalcy for longtime Grand Haven residents like DeHoek.

“We build up to this and then when the Coast Guard Festival is over, then next week is sidewalk sales and then school begins, so this is kind of what we all look forward to,” she said.

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