Oprah Winfrey made an unannounced appearance in Grand Haven today, sampling local delicacies and enjoying carnival rides with shocked but delighted residents and visitors. Helena Hopewell, a 32-year-old Rockford woman currently camping at the Grand Haven State Park, got the surprise of a lifetime when she found herself standing in line for the Tilt-A-Whirl with none other than Oprah Winfrey. “I was speechless”, says Helen, “I just stared at her for like five minutes, but she was so nice we ended up taking selfies together and talking about our favorite books before we got on the ride.” Forty-seven-year-old Grand Haven resident Madison Emerson shared a ferris-wheel carriage with Ms. Winfrey and subsequently succumbed to an awe-inspired fugue compounded by mild heat-stroke. Speaking from the Carnival’s First-Aid Tent, Ms. Emerson described her experience with Oprah as “something ephemeral, almost spiritual, yet tinged with a surrealistic je ne sais quoi that’s impossible to put into words”.
According to reports from A.P. and Reuters, Winfrey arrived in Grand Haven from a private luxury yacht anchored offshore on Lake Michigan, between Grand Haven and Holland. In addition to visiting the carnival, Oprah has already been spotted at Pronto-Pups, a famous Grand Haven dispensary of culinary delights, and was overheard telling a companion that she was also hoping to get a wet burrito at Tip-A-Few, known as the “Home of the Wet One”, according to their signage and marketing materials.
Although celebrity-visitors have become commonplace during Grand Haven’s summer beach season, even the excitement and commotion caused by Oscar-winner Jared Leto’s appearance at last year’s Festival pales in comparison to the pandemonious eruption in downtown Grand Haven late this afternoon, as news of Oprah’s presence spread faster than a viral cat-video on YouTube. Ms. Winfrey last visited Grand Haven’s Festival in 2009, and today’s sightings of the cultural icon left carnival-goers agog and gobsmacked, many with mouths agape, while only a tiny minority appeared nonplussed. “At first I didn’t know who she was”, said Patti Camillio, a 20-year-old tourist visiting from Vermont, “but people started screaming her name, and the whole mob-scene really kind of put me off the carnival experience I’d been hoping for today.”
This year’s Coast Guard Festival is also celebrating the 225th Anniversary of the U.S. Coast Guard, and while social media sites posted rumors last week that Oprah might be Grand Marshalette of this year’s Coast Guard Parade, few Festival observers put credence in such speculations – until today. In a brief, but exclusive, interview with The Times, granted in exchange for the paper agreeing not to publish its photos of Oprah eating three Pronto-Pups, the legendary superstar confirmed the rumors, saying, “I am thrilled to be back in Grand Haven again, and honored to be riding in the parade on Saturday morning. Every visit to Grand Haven is a guaranteed entry in my Gratitude Journal”.
Ms. Winfrey, stressed, however, that there is also a more serious purpose to her Grand Haven visit, as she plans to participate in Friday afternoon’s Memorial Service in tribute to the 96-year-old Japanese Soldier (now 97), discovered last year after nearly seventy years of spying on The American Legion Post, and living in the woods behind Butch’s Beach Burritos. “I wanted to be here for this celebration”, said Oprah, “I plan to lay a simple wreath at the new Shrine behind Butch’s, and just take a quiet moment to reflect on this poor man, and the unimaginable sacrifices he made in order to spend seven decades of his life so completely committed and dedicated to a lost cause. It’s still astounding to me that he never knew the war was over, and the very least any of us can do is honor his spirit and send him our prayers and best wishes.”
Friday’s Memorial Service will take place at 2:00 p.m. near the Shrine in the sand dune behind Butch’s Beach Burritos, and the Coast Guard Festival’s penultimate Coast Guard Parade begins at 11:45 a.m. Saturday. The Grand River Times will be issuing OPRAH-WATCH Bulletins throughout the week.