Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw resumes “Christmas Tree Ship”

CHICAGO – The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw (WLBB-30) will arrive here, Friday, with a delivery of 1,000 Christmas trees that will be provided to needy families at the Navy Pier in downtown during a public ceremony Dec. 6, 2008, at 10 a.m.

Mackinaw (WLBB-30) is in her third year as the Christmas Tree Ship, continuing the tradition of its predecessor (WAGB-83), which resurrected the tradition of the Christmas Tree Ship in 2000. The crew of the Mackinaw hauls a load of trees from the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin for distribution to more than a thousand disadvantaged Chicago-area families.

On behalf of the Ada S. McKinley Community Services, Inc., volunteers from the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets, Young Marines and the Sea Explorer Scouts assist the Mackinaw crew with the offloading ceremony.

The Chicago Christmas Ship Committee, which purchased the trees, represents diverse aspects of the Chicago boating community such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary, International Shipmaster’s Association and the Chicago Yachting Association, for instance.

The original Christmas Tree Ship, the Rouse Simmons, started the tradition in 1896, when Captain Scheunemann docked his tree-laden schooner on the riverbank near the Clark Street Bridge.

The Christmas Tree Ship festivities will commence Saturday with a Welcoming Ceremony at 8 a.m., followed by the Mackinaw hosting school children for tours and nautical history lessons. The tree presentation will take place Saturday, at 10 a.m. Following the ceremony, the Mackinaw will be available for tours from 1-5 p.m.

Prior to arriving in Chicago, the Mackinaw removed seasonal aids-to-navigation in Lake Michigan to prevent damage from ice and severe weather for Operation Fall Retrieve, which is the largest domestic buoy recovery operation in the United States.

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