Coast Guard Festival 2016 is over, and we survived another year of carnival rides, junk food, out-of-towners taking over our streets, and catching up with friends we may not have seen in a while.

Seeing old friends was a highlight of the week for me, and my boys even agreed with me! It’s amazing how their perception of Coast Guard Festival has changed as they have grown. One of my kids said, “Coast Guard is like Instagram in real life; you see all the people you have on Instagram all in one week.” I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing!

Another highlight of this past week was the food booth at the First Reformed Church in Grand Haven. The food was amazing, and they donated all proceeds to our ministry in Honduras. If you missed this venue, you really missed out on a great cause. In addition, they “sell” their parking spots at the church throughout the week, and all the funds go to the youth ministry program at the church. Even better, the kids work the event. I love this idea!

Other groups got in on the action of raising funds for their organization during the festival as well. Preferred Auto Advantage generously donated their parking lot for the Grand Haven High School hockey program to sell parking spaces for $10 each. All proceeds went directly to the GHHS hockey teams, and, of course, the hockey players worked the lot to earn the money.

I think these groups are onto something big! Coast Guard Festival brings thousands of visitors to our community each year, which presents an opportunity for many of our schools and churches to raise money for their programs. I even saw several talented artists and musicians displaying their talents on Washington Street, raising money to help further their careers. These outside-the-box thinkers are making the most of the Coast Guard Festival and keeping the dollars right here in Coast Guard City USA!

Each year, Coast Guard Festival gets bigger and better, attracting more visitors to our beautiful city. I’m sure there are many more organizations who can benefit from the influx of tourists who visit all week long. Put your thinking caps on for next year—maybe if we all work together, we can make a difference for other groups in our community.

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