DOWNTOWN — Chicago’s longtime tradition of the Christmas Ship Ceremony is back at Navy Pier this year after a COVID-19 hiatus.
Volunteers will unload about 1,200 pine trees from the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw starting 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Polk Brothers Park on the southwest wall of Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave.
At 9:15 a.m., the Taft High School Choir and USCGA Chorale will perform before the official tree ceremony begins at 10 a.m. The ceremony will feature a performance of the national anthem, a performance from the JROTC Cadet Color Guard, a memorial wreath ceremony and a Fire Department helicopter flyover on Lake Michigan, weather permitting.
Visitors can then tour the upper deck of the Mackinaw, the largest Coast Guard ship on the Great Lakes, 1:30-5 p.m, according to a news release.
The Christmas trees — transported from Northern Michigan by the Mackinaw during a mission to maintain buoys on Lake Michigan — will be given to community nonprofits that will deliver them to families across the city for free.
“We believe that every kid should have a Christmas,” said Dave Truitt, founder of Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee. “And our story, as most of you know, is about bringing Christmas trees to kids and families who would not otherwise have one.”
This year will be the 22nd year of the longtime maritime tradition, which has provided more than 25,000 trees to families during the holidays, according to a news release.
Saturday’s ceremony honors the crew of the original Christmas Tree Ship, the Rouse Simmons, whose 16 sailors went down during a gale on in 1912 while transporting 5,000 trees to Chicago.
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