As Lake Michigan storms took their toll on boats and crews from Grand Haven, a group of volunteer lifesavers banded together in 1871 to save the lives of those whose vessels were imperiled. By the end of the decade, an Act of Congress established the United States Life Saving Service. In 1915 Congress founded the Coast Guard, who took over the mission of the Life Saving Service. Nine years later local residents proposed a community picnic to honor the Coast Guard. Rain delayed that inaugural picnic for a year, but by the mid-1930s the celebration had grown into the annual Coast Guard Festival, an eagerly anticipated event. Grand Haven was declared “Coast Guard City USA” by an Act of Congress in 1998.
Today’s Coast Guard Festival is a unique 10 day national military festival, whose purpose is to honor the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard. During the ten days of the festival, there are opportunities for all to attend and participate. From parades, waterfront entertainment, fireworks, the National Memorial Service, Street Dance, and Kids Day, the festival allows for reflection, celebration, and solidifying the historical relationship between the Coast Guard and Grand Haven.
This year’s 85th Coast Guard Festival runs from July 24th – August 2nd, 2009.