Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw coninues Christmas Ship tradition

CHICAGO – The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw (WLBB 30), acting as the “Christmas Tree Ship”, is scheduled to arrive at Chicago’s Navy Pier for a two-day event, starting Friday, Dec. 4, 2009 at 8 a.m. to distribute Christmas trees to more than a thousand families in need.

Tours of the USCGC Mackinaw will also be available on Dec. 4 – 5 from 1:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.

The Mackinaw will arrive loaded with 1,500 Christmas trees purchased by Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee to be distributed to disadvantaged families throughout the Chicago area. The Mackinaw’s reenactment continues a treasured part of Chicago’s maritime tradition.

The Rouse Simmons was the original “Christmas Tree Ship” that came to Chicago with fresh evergreens and wreaths for holiday season during the early 1900’s. Rouse Simmons was a three masted schooner and was recognized by the Christmas tree tied to her mast as she entered port. The Simmons was the principal means of bringing Christmas trees to Chicago for over 30 years.

Chicago’s boating community reenactment of the olden days of the Rouse Simmons landing in Chicago is now portrayed by the Mackinaw. The trees will be taken off the Mackinaw by local youth volunteers, the Sea Cadets, Venture Crews, Sea Explorer Scouts and the Young Marines and loaded onto trucks for distribution by Ada S. McKinley Community Services.

The “Chicago’s Christmas Ship” Committee is comprised of and supported by all facets of the Chicago’s boating community: the International Shipmasters’ Association, Chicago Marine Heritage Society, US Navy League, Chicago yacht clubs, Friends of the Marine Community, Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Chicago Yachting Association.

Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee will also host educational programs for local area schools aboard the Mackinaw. More than 300 children from the Chicago area will learn about the role of the Coast Guard, the “Christmas Tree Ship” tradition, observe a Sea Partners ecology presentation and experience a ship tour by Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The Mackinaw replaced the original icebreaker, which served the Great Lakes since 1944, and was donated for use as a maritime museum located in Mackinaw City, Mich. This ship, which is home to a crew of 60, was built in Marinette, Wisconsin and commissioned in June 2006. It is one of the Coast Guard’s most technologically advanced multi-missioned cutters. In addition to its primary ice breaking and aids to navigation missions, the Mackinaw also performs search and rescue and maritime law enforcement.

The Mackinaw’s arrival is a culmination of efforts by the Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee, working together with the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Sea Partners Program, Chicago Navy Pier, private individuals, and the hard working generous boaters of the marine community to help make Christmas special for Chicago’s families in need.

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