The Coast Guard Festival is nothing new for Justin Olson, the officer-in-charge for Coast Guard Station Grand Haven.
Still, the veteran Coast Guardsman says he looks forward to it with great anticipation, especially the visiting cutters that tie up along the seawall during the week.
The first time Olson experienced the Grand Haven festival was in back in 1998.
“I was at my first duty station in Sault Ste. Marie on the Coast Guard cutter Buckthorn, WLI 642,” he said. “And it was amazing coming in during the Parade of Ships and seeing the thousands of people standing on the breakwalls.”
Olson said he returned to the festival with the Buckthorn in 1999.
“So, coming to this station, I had a pretty good idea of the festival itself, but not all the work behind the scenes that make it all come together,” he said. “It is by far the busiest time for the crew at the station all year. There is a ton of preparations prior to it, but then a solid 10 days of festivities.”
Station Grand Haven currently has a lot of new crew members who have never seen the festival, so this will be their first. Olson said they have all expressed their anticipation and excitement to see all the people and events during the big week.
Not much changes during the festival for the routine of the station, located between the channel and South Harbor Drive. The crew is split into two sections and they work 48 hours on and 48 hours off, then every other three-day weekend.
“We just pack all the events into the 10-day period and continue with our primary mission of search and rescue/law enforcement,” Olson explained.
Olson said the crews of the cutters that come into port for the festival all seem to have a great time while they are here. And it serves as a reunion for many of the Station Grand Haven crew, as many of them had served in the past on one of the Great Lakes cutters that visit.
“It’s always nice to see your old boat,” Olson said. “And for all our newer shipmates, it can be their first time seeing some of the platforms. The Coast Guard is small in the grand scheme of things, so the longer you stay in, the smaller it gets. And you get to run into a lot of old shipmates you have served with in the past.”
Olson is looking forward to the Hollyhock’s scheduled visit, as a good friend of his serves aboard the cutter. “
This is a very special place to be stationed and I have not ever seen anything like it before,” Olson said of Grand Haven. “The outpouring of support and excitement of the people here are the very reason this is Coast Guard City USA!”