10 Must-See Events at Grand Haven’s Coast Guard Festival

Amy Bruining

2019 marks the 95th anniversary of Grand Haven’s longstanding summer tradition, Coast Guard Festival. What began in 1924 as a small picnic for local Coast Guard personnel has grown into a national annual attraction. Now, every August, the weeklong celebration draws thousands of tourists and high-ranking dignitaries to the West Michigan community.

With a plenty of concerts, parades, free ship tours, and fireworks, there’s no shortage of fun (and beaches!) under the sun. Planning a visit to our beloved hometown during Coast Guard Festival? Look no further for a full list of entertainment. We’ve compiled attractions for young and old to see and do—all in honor of the men and women who serve.

Check out a few of this year’s events you won’t want to miss:

  • Bruce in the U.S.A

Begin the week by taking in tunes of the man, the myth, the legend, Bruce Springsteen. Relive the energetic performances that made “The Boss” a certified rock n’ roll icon—and the tours that made crowds go wild. This musical experience brings back all the party-hopping ballads of one of the world’s best selling artists, which continue to sell out at arenas across the country.

Where: Lake Michigan Credit Union Waterfront Stage

When: July 26, 8:00 PM

Details: $12 general admission.

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  • Cardboard Boat Races

Featuring two classes of racers, the Buoy Class (ages 10-15 years old) and Cutter Class (ages 16 and above), the cardboard boat race presents a creative opportunity to design a boat that will withstand the 200-yard water race. Two-person and three-to eight-person vessels are allowed. Prize categories include fastest time, Fleet Award, Iceberg Award, and a People’s Choice award. The Fleet Award recognizes the best themed boat while the Iceberg Award will go to the best sinking. Prior to race time, boats will be on display for a public walkthrough and People’s Choice voting.

When: July 27, 1:30 PM

Where: Lake Michigan Credit Union Waterfront Stage

  • Grand City Skiers

Witness a water performance unlike any other with the Grand River water aerobatics ski show. As a group dedicated to fun aquatics, these performers provide a spectacle that’s bound to make everyone laugh, clap, and stand in awe of aerobatics skills on skis. Watch for jumps and amazing human pyramid builds in this hour-long thematic show. Even better, it’s a show for all ages and choreographed with expertise to some of today’s pop tunes. Trust us when we say it’s one of the best ways to spend an evening on the waterfront!

When: July 30, 7:00 PM

Where: Lake Michigan Credit Union Waterfront Stage

Details: $5 general admission.

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  • Worship on the Waterfront

Sponsored by First Reformed Church of Grand Haven, Worship on the Waterfront (WOW) is a series held every summer, offering free outdoor worship on Sunday evenings, right along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The 60-year-old tradition features gifted vocalists and artists from the surrounding community, along with regional and national level performers. Come enjoy an event that combines an appreciation for music with a passion for God’s creation.

When: Sundays at 7:00 PM.

View schedule

Where: Waterfront Stadium

  • Flea Market

Discover cool vintage finds, children’s items, unique home furnishings, and more! At Coast Guard’s flea market, vendors hail from miles around and offer a large assortment of books, movies, and hidden treasures galore. Comb through rare pieces and wander down the aisles knowing you’re guaranteed to uncover something extra special.

When: July 28, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM

Where: 7th Street, between Washington Ave. and Columbus Ave.

  • Ship Tours

One of the biggest highlights of the festival? Free ship tours! Throughout the week, locals and tourists can gain an inside look at marine life. Hop aboard the CGC Adler, CGC Bristol Bay, CGC Katmai Bay, or the CGC Buckhorn. It’s your chance to meet Coast Guard personnel who will answer questions, show you how U.S. Coast Guard cutters break through ice, and more. Don’t miss out—plan your tour today!

When: Dates and times vary.

View tour schedule

Where: Escanaba Park

  • Downtown Carnival

Ferris wheels, thrills, and funnel cakes. Need we say more? Located on Washington Ave., stretching from Harbor Drive to Third Street, Coast Guard’s annual carnival delivers outdoor family fun at its finest. Providing over two dozen rides, games, food concessions, an on-site ATM and help desk, this is one attraction everyone can enjoy.

When: Dates and times vary.

View schedule

Where: Washington Ave., from Harbor Drive to Third Street

See pricing

  • Festival Idol

A local take on the ever-popular television talent show, Festival Idol draws aspiring vocalists throughout the community to perform on stage. Age groups will be separated into three categories and contestants will sing ballads that range from today’s Top 40 hits to oldies classics. Stop by and become amazed at the wealth of talent that exists in West Michigan. From five-year-old child stars in the making to seasoned pros, this event is sure to become a fan favorite.

When: July 29, 7:00 PM

Where: Lake Michigan Credit Union Waterfront Stage

Details: $5 general admission, children 5 and under free.

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  • Kids Day

Parents, look no further for kid-friendly entertainment! At Kids Day, kids rule. Make your little ones smile through games, storytelling, face painting, arts and crafts, prince and princess contests, bounce houses, red carpet photos, and more. This free event is brimming with ways to keep tots busy. Not to mention, Meijer Food Trucks will be on-site, offering tasty treats for everyone to savor!

When: July 30, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM

Where: Mulligans Hollow

  • Fireworks Extravaganza

End the week on a high note with Fireworks Extravaganza. Starting at dark, this colorful light show can be viewed from the waterfront and is accompanied by choreographed music from Grand Haven’s own Musical Fountain. For over 75 years, this spectacular has finished out the festivities and is often labeled “the best fireworks display in Michigan.”

When: August 3, at dark

Where: Waterfront

Visit here for a complete list of events and additional information.

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