By Marie Havenga
The annual Coast Guard celebration brings more to town than thrilling rides, great smelling food, parades and dignitaries.
By the time the thousands of attendees have exited the sidewalks, they will have pumped more than $9.2 million into the local economy, according to Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Marci Cisneros.
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Among the millions, visitors will spend $900,000 in lodging for the 10-day festival; $1 million in dining; and another $100,000 in souvenirs, ice cream and miscellaneous items.
“The perks associated with events like this are multi-faceted and encompass a host of social as well as economic benefits — like community pride, volunteering opportunities, sense of place and identity, and cultural/historical experiences,” Cisneros said.
But Coast Guard Festival Executive Director Mike Smith thinks $9.2 million is a conservative figure. He puts the festival’s economic impact closer to $14 million because, when people come here for the festival, they like what they see.
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COAST GUARD FESTIVAL BY THE NUMBERS
- 650,000 people expected to attend
- 2,167 hotel rooms booked
- $866,666 total lodging revenue
- $962,000 spent on food
- 325,000 will come from out of town
- $400 average daily spending by family of four
- $9.2 million economic impact during the 10-day festival
*Source: Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau[/box]
“The impact isn’t just during it, it is felt later with lots of return guests,” Smith said. “They fill up with gas, there are so many incidentals that we’re not measuring — liquor sales, ice sales, boaters and their purchases.”
Smith also said the festival is a popular time for family reunions. The economic impact of people staying with relatives is not measured.
“In my house, where there is usually only two, we jump to 11 during the festival,” Smith said. “My kids are not just going to the vendors that come during festival, they’re going to the hometown treasures like Fortino’s, Fricano’s, Butch’s Beach Burritos.”
Smith estimates a family of four forks out between $300 and $400 at the festival, and that doesn’t include lodging at $189 per hotel room.
Fireworks finale day funnels in the most cash for the festival committee. The carnival makes about one-third of its total profit that day — about $20,000.
“It’s the biggest day for food, rides, tours on the ship — it’s the biggest day for everything,” Smith said.
But beyond money, there are memories.
“The festival is not just a 10-day celebration, it’s a time of year,” Smith said. “For us, Coast Guard can be a verb, it can be a noun, it can be an adjective. It’s a point in time for people to measure the seasons.”