South Haven’s HarborFest is continuing for its 28th year as an annual celebration of the city’s maritime history. Thousands gather for the food, music, and fun atmosphere that has activities for all ages. This year the festival takes place on June 14th and 15th and has added a nautical splash with mermaids and pirates taking the streets. This is an event you won’t want to miss!
Schedule of Events
Before the big kickoff, tall ship Friends Good Will sets sail at 11 AM onto Lake Michigan for their Pirate Chaser cruise, and again on Saturday morning. Children ages 4 and up are invited to join in on the fun as they fend for their treasure. Visit the Michigan Maritime Museum’s website for more details.
The official kickoff to the festival begins at noon. As you wander up and down Water Street, stop by the beer garden and the food vendors, and make sure to check out (and purchase!) the incredible handmade crafts along the way. Get your celebration started with a corn dog and a refreshing craft beer, but watch out for dueling pirates! They'll be taking the streets throughout the afternoon.
Water Street during HarborFest
Next, head over to the kid’s activity area for amusing games and three different photo opportunities: mermaids, a cardboard cut-out, and Sesquicentennial-themed hoop skirts. Mermaids will be around for photos from 1 PM to 3 PM and 4 PM to 5 PM, and on Saturday from 12 PM to 4 PM.
Cardboard cut-out at the kid's activity area
Where else can you find mermaids on Friday? Well, head over to Old Harbor Village and watch the awe-inspiring Circus Siren Mermaid Show, beginning their performance at 4 PM. Mermaids will be swimming in North America’s tallest mermaid swim tank. Tipsy Brush Studio is also holding special mermaid painting classes all three days. Registration and a class fee is required, and in the end you will have a fabulous keepsake and memory of 2019’s HarborFest and Mermaid MegaFest. Friday and Saturday's painting times are 3 PM and 7:30 PM, and Sunday's is at 1 PM. Visit their website for more details and tickets.
Friday's painting at Tipsy Brush - check out their website for the other designs!
Live music begins at 4 PM at Riverfront Park. Friday’s performers include: Lighting Matches, Bucket O’ Maybes, and Brass from the Past. Lighting Matches is a Grand Rapids-based band and are made up of musicians with many different musical backgrounds. Bucket O’ Maybes is a classic rock band and Brass from the Past is claimed to be, “one of Chicago’s best cover bands.” Tune in for the classics of Motown, R&B, funk, soul, and rock. With this variety, it will surely be hard to leave!
A highlight of the day will be the HarborFest Parade of Boats. While you’re listening to the fantastic music lineup, keep your eyes on the channel as the boats of South Haven’s harbor pass by for your visual enjoyment, and as a celebration of the city’s maritime past, present, and future!
Wow, we have already been through so much, but wait there is MORE! Saturday is packed with all of the special events to fill your soul with good times and nautical vibes. To start, make sure to catch the dragon boats racing through the harbor all day long, as they compete for the fastest racing time. This is a cannot-miss tradition!
Dragon boat races
Want to get your exercise in before you buy an elephant ear at the food fest? Head over to Core Nutrition for a cardio drumming class at 9 AM. Drumming is a great way to get your heart pumping.
Have you ever dreamed of getting your certification to become a real-life MERMAID? Did you know that it was even possible? Well, for anyone ages 12 or older this is a real treat. The Naui Mermaid Level 1 Certification class will be in session beginning at 9 AM at Lake Arvesta (107 72nd Street, South Haven, MI 49090). The course teaches technique and safety for mermaids, whether they dress for fun or would like to become professionals. Visit the Mermaid MegaFest’s website for more details on this unique opportunity.
The Circus Siren Mermaid Show will be at it again all day on Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM. The crafts, the beer, and the food will all be served just like the day before. Pirate duels will also take place to stir up some ruckus on the festival street!
Now that the Saturday festivities have kicked off, it’s time to grab your mermaid tail, or your pirate hat, and head down to the South Beach pier. Admire the merfolk, take photos, and enjoy the whimsical atmosphere. After the gathering, mermaids will engage in beachside tales during the story time at 2 PM.
A mermaid and pirate on the pier
Live music will continue at the same time and same place as Friday, but with a whole new lineup! Overnight Hero will begin the performances, a classic rock cover band. Brenda Loomis Band will follow, playing country, rock and blues. The final performance will be Arena Rock, which will be sure to keep the crowd alive.
A concert on the river - bring a chair, a blanket, or even a dinghy and enjoy the music!
The mermaids of Mermaid MegaFest aren’t just here for the glamour, they are also here to speak about protecting the Great Lakes and freshwater ecosystems. Speakers will take the stage at Riverfront Park at 5:30 PM for a talk about how to take action for such an important cause.
For those who don’t want the party to end (and are 18 or older), head out to Lake Arvesta for the Island Moon Party, “on the beach of Siren Island.” Bring your mermaid or pirate costume and dance the night away with good company. Gates open at 8 PM, and you can get a special discount before the event here.
HarborFest has officially ended by Sunday, but you can still catch the Circus Siren Mermaid Show from while you’re heading to your Mermaid Painting Class.
HarborFest Hosting Mermaid MegaFest will surely be a treat for people of all ages. Grab your friends and family and enjoy the nautical whimsy and celebrations. There’s a little something for everyone during this unique festival!
Photographs courtesy of Tom Renner.
About the Author
Amanda Owens is a resident of South Haven, MI and is the Guest Services and Social Media Coordinator for the South Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau. She is a recent graduate of Western Michigan University with a bachelor's degree in Public History, and is delighted to help visitors with their trips to the beautiful city of South Haven.