GH hit with tourist trifecta

Matt DeYoung • Jun 20, 2018 at 12:00 PM

If you’re planning to head into Grand Haven this weekend, you might have a tough time finding a parking spot.

Joy Gaasch, president of the Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg, said this weekend is potentially the second-busiest weekend of the year, trailing only the final weekend of the annual Coast Guard Festival.

“This historically has been Art Festival weekend since the 1950s, so this weekend has always been a busy weekend as far as bringing folks into town,” Gaasch said. “And the Queen’s Cup (sailboat race) used to come here every other year, and that’s returning this year. Adding Soccer in the Sand to that and this is probably, next to Coast Guard, the busiest weekend of the summer here in Grand Haven.”

Gaasch said each of the three events draws a different crowd to town.

“From a standpoint of exposing the many attributes of our community, this is an amazing weekend,” she said. “You’ve got sailing, you’ve got sports, you’ve got art, all wrapped up together. The economic impact on our community is pretty substantial.

“The nice thing about this weekend is it really caters to the local community, the boat community, the sports community. It really touches on all those great reasons why we live here.”

The Grand Haven Art Festival runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. along Washington Avenue. Gaasch said the Chamber estimated attendance at last year’s festival at 15,000 people.

Soccer in the Sand, which features games all day Saturday and Sunday on Grand Haven’s beaches, also brings an estimated 15,000 people to town.

The Queen’s Cup hasn’t visited Grand Haven since 2010. Its return to town has a lot of people — including Gaasch — excited.

“I’m really happy for our local sailors,” she said. “It makes it a lot easier for them to participate. It’s also a thrill for me to see this harbor full of sailboats. That, in conjunction with the Soccer in the Sand on the beach, all of the art stuff going on downtown, really gives the town this flavor of a really unique place to visit.”

Gaasch is also excited for the visitors and residents alike to check out the newly renovated Waterfront Stadium, which will open with a ribbon cutting on Thursday.

“That’s going to create another experience,” she said. “It’ll be wonderful. They’ll be able to see what’s occurred thanks to the wonderful gift that Lynne Sherwood left.”

With so many events happening at the same time, the question becomes: is it possible to have too much of a good thing?

“We do ask the question, ‘What’s the saturation point?’” Gaasch said. “It isn’t only here that question is getting asked. Grand Rapids is another one — how many festivals is too many festivals? I don’t think they’ve reached their saturation point yet.”

Gaasch said the nice thing is that people who visit for one of the events often check out the other things happening in town.

“This weekend, folks that come to Soccer in the Sand will head down and support the Art Festival, and folks here to visit the Art Festival may walk down to the beach and see what’s going on, so the different events do support each other,” she said.

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