Nancy: Queen of the Coast Guard Festival
When the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival began in 1924, it was a simple picnic and rowing competition attended by Coast Guard personnel stationed in the area. Today the Grand Haven, Michigan, festival has become a nationally recognized event attended by over 350,000 people.
As the event grew, new elements were added, including the addition of a Miss Coast Guard competition. The second year of the competition in 1951 was thrilling for our American House Spring Lake resident, Nancy, who, at 17 years old, was crowned Miss Coast Guard!
The Grand Haven native had just graduated from high school. A little shy, Nancy laughed it off when her family and friends urged her to compete against nine other girls for the Miss Coast Guard crown. “My parents and even my piano teacher urged me to do it, but I said no, no, no! Then I conceded, and I’m glad I did it,” said Nancy.
When the big day came, she headed to the local theater, The Grand, determined to do her best in the competition’s three categories. Whether it was her favorite aqua evening gown, her excellence at piano or the bathing suit she borrowed from her sister, Nancy shined the brightest, winning the competition and the crown! “It was a very exciting time in my life,” said Nancy. “It was a lot of fun!”
As reigning Miss Coast Guard, she was presented with jewelry from Grand Haven Jewelry and an outfit from a local retailer. She rode the parade float and made special appearances throughout the year. During that time, Nancy enrolled at Hope College in nearby Holland, eventually earning a degree in music. After graduation, she taught music in Grand Haven before building her family of three children. “I’ve had a great life,” said Nancy.
The title of Miss Coast Guard has since been bestowed over 50 times. In 1990, Nancy was invited back to ride on the float in the Coast Guard parade with several of the former queens. In 2021, the festival committee expanded the invitation to all past honorees, and Nancy took her place among the two dozen women who shared the distinction of representing the Coast Guard festival.
Held the first week in August, Coast Guard Week honors the men and women of the United States Coast Guard who sacrificed their lives in the service of their country while fulfilling their motto, Semper Paratus (Always Ready).
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