What to Expect at the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival

The Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival unofficially began in 1924 as a Coast Guard personnel-only picnic, which included rowing competitions for service members stationed in Grand Haven. Over the years, the festival has become a premier event in Michigan with an annual attendance of more than 350,000 people. Here are just a few things you can expect to see and do when you celebrate our Nation’s heroes.

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1. Run, Walk or Cheer

There is no secret to why over a thousand runners choose to participate in the annual Coast Guard Run. The race route is challenging but picturesque complete with stunning views of Lake Michigan and the famous Grand Haven pier and lighthouse. There are a different length courses, from 5K to 10K, a mini obstacle course and one mile. All ages are welcome to participate.  

2. Enjoy the Kids Parade

Families, children’s groups, marching bands, and more are invited to take part in this community event, with a small kids parade to celebrate the U.S. Coast Guard.

3. Cookout for a Community Picnic

Just like the first Coast Guard Community Picnic in 1924, this is a time for the community and Coast Guard personnel to celebrate the USCG’s long history in the Grand Haven area. The public is welcome to enjoy food, games, and music.

4. Tour a Ship

Everyone in town lines the Grand Haven boardwalk and pier to welcome the ships to the festival. Ship tours are free and visitors can learn about life on the ship, crew tasks and more!

5. Eat Elephant Ears at a Carnival 

Downtown Grand Haven’s Washington Avenue transforms into a carnival midway complete with rides, games, and the sweet, sweet smells of elephant ears. Visitors are entertained by carnival goers from street side patios of downtown eateries as the bright carnival rides light up the evening sky.

6. Street Dance

This event has long been a favorite to both locals and visitors during the annual festival. A block of Washington Street in downtown Grand Haven is closed for the evening so that everyone can dance in the stree. From “Shout” to mowtown, rock, and country, the show has something for all ages.

7. Find Unique Crafts

The Coast Guard Craft Fair is one of the most popular craft fairs in Michigan with hundreds of crafters from around the state and nation. During this two day show, Grand Haven’s Central Park is transformed in to an outdoor market filled with original, handcrafted goods.

8. Participate in a Memorial Service

“The Walk of Coast Guard History” was created to recognize the history of the U.S. Coast Guard and its long lasting relationship with one special city, Grand Haven, Michigan.  The city was officially proclaimed “Coast Guard City, U.S.A.” by Presidential Proclamation in November 1998. Each year a point of history is chosen by the Festival Committee and submitted for approval to the City of Grand Haven. The “point of history” is accompanied by a 15 inch brass Coast Guard seal and installed into various locations throughout the City.

9. Cheer at a Grand Parade

The Coast Guard Grand Parade is one of the largest and most popular parades in the state of Michigan. Nearly 100,000 people line the streets of downtown Grand Haven to show their appreciation for the men and women who serve in the United States Coast Guard as well as celebrate “Coast Guard City, USA”. Enjoy marching bands, clowns, military units, Coast Guard dignitaries, local sports teams, colorful floats, and much more.

10. Watch Fireworks 

The Coast Guard Festival Fireworks are a tradition and one of the hallmarks of the annual festival. The show takes place after the completion of a special Coast Guard Festival edition of the Musical Fountain along Grand Haven’s waterfront. Paired with the carnival lights, large crowd, and music – it’s a magical scene.