Thanks for the birthday wishes!

Post written by PAC John Masson 

Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Vandenberg greets attendees of the Coast Guard Festival Grand Parade in Grand Haven, Mich., from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Mich.-based helicopter CG-6527, Aug. 4, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Lt. Davey Connor

With a burst of fireworks over the Grand River, the city of Grand Haven, Mich. — the original “Coast Guard City, USA” — once again wished its favorite branch of service a happy birthday.

The annual Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, hosted by the communities of Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Ferrysburg and typically attended by more than 350,000 people, spanned 10 days.

Vice Adm. Robert Parker, commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic Area, speaks to U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard members from local units, Cutters Hollyhock and Neah Bay, and Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon, in Grand Haven, Mich. Aug. 3, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Lt. Davey Connor

The city was in august company once again this year in wishing the Coast Guard birthday greetings. President Barack Obama, who shares an Aug. 4 birthday with the service, wrote a personal letter, as he has done every year since becoming commander-in-chief, to the Coast Guard on its birthday.

The Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival boasts a huge array of daily events designed both to celebrate the nation’s smallest armed force and to thank individual Coast Guard members for their service.

Receiving gratitude always feels good, but returning it is just as important. The community of Grand Haven puts forth a huge effort in planning the festival, which began with an informal picnic put on by the Coast Guard for its members in 1924 and formally became the Coast Guard Festival in 1937. The service’s highest-ranking members pay their respects to the community each year, and cutters from around the Great Lakes take part in an annual Parade of Ships, then open themselves to visitors for tours.

This year, three ships moored at Escanaba Park on the Grand River, including the Port Huron, Mich.-based Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock, the Cleveland-based Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay, and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon, homeported in Prescott, Ontario.

The Festival’s history demonstrates the interdependence of large Coast Guard units with the communities that host them, especially in the Great Lakes region, said Rear Adm. Mike Parks, commander of the 9th Coast Guard District.

 “The Coast Guard Festival is a rich tradition celebrating Coast Guard men and women for their wonderful work over the years,” Parks said. “We are privileged to have the opportunity to visit Coast Guard City, USA, and see the appreciation of the public.  I always look forward to coming home to Grand Haven.”

Clearly, the town feels the same way. That may be why it hosts service member-only events, such as the annual golf and softball tournaments. Residents greet each other with a somewhat cryptic “Happy Coast Guard” as the annual festival approaches, and on the day of the must-be-seen-to-be-believed Grand Parade, it’s impossible to walk more than a few steps without hearing the Coast Guard’s official march, Semper Paratus, being played by a high school band, skirled on the bagpipes, or played on a public address system.



Vice Adm. Robert Parker, commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic Area and Rear Adm. Mike Parks, commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District, salute to render honors as Coast Guard Auxiliarist Nathan Gardner plays Taps on a bugle at the National Auxiliary Memorial Ceremony in Grand Haven, Mich. Aug. 3, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Lt. Davey Connor


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