Guide to this year’s Coast Guard Fest

Annual event takes place July 28 – August 6 in Grand Haven
A memorial service - part of the annual Coast Guard Festival - takes place on Aug. 4. Courtesy photo.

The West Michigan lakeshore’s most patriotic summer festival brims with what one fan called “a small town feel and big time fun.” It’s a 10-day mix of the military and the just plain entertaining, with a carnival, tribute bands, parades, craft and quilt fairs, a street dance and other events all over “Coast Guard City, USA” and a bit beyond.

At the heart of the festival are public and private events honoring retired and active duty members of America’s armed services, including the National Coast Guard Memorial Service on August 4, open to all.

Over the entire 10-day period, 350,000 festival goers are expected, so thinking ahead about parking and getting around will be time well spent. The final weekend is usually the busiest.

To watch the July 31 Parade of Ships as Coast Guard vessels and other boats come up the river from Lake Michigan to Escanaba Park (half a mile short of downtown), walk west toward the lighthouse on the waterfront boardwalk. A fresh mix of ships will be in port this year. Tour them for free through August 5 (check festival app for times).

Among other perennially popular events . . .

July 29  

  • Kids Parade
  • Cardboard Boat Race (to participate, preregister)

July 30  Cruise-in Car Show and picnic at Coast Guard Park in Ferrysburg

August 1-5  – Carnival

August 2 – Waterball Competition

August 5 –  The Finale

  • Grand Parade
  • Fireworks

Coasties and Grand Haven public safety officers and firefighters in a very wet tug-of-war

The logistical lowdown
Download the festival app here.  Access a parking map here. Also posted there: details of free shuttle between downtown and parking lots in Grand Haven and nearby towns on August 5. The final major event is the fireworks show on August 5. Fairs, food trucks and other fun will continue one day more. Details and ticket links at



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