US Coast Guard's Christmas Ship arrives at Navy Pier

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A holiday traditions kicked off Friday at Navy Pier.

A holiday traditions kicked off Friday at Navy Pier.

A fireboat water cannon signaled the official welcome of a Chicago Christmas tradition.

The Hubbard High School Drumline from the Southwest Side greeted the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, carrying hundreds of Christmas trees for needy families.

Angelica Arrendondo was honored to take part.

"When I was little, it was always a dream of mine to play the drums, but I never really had the chance to, so now that I do and I get to play for important things like this and parades with Hubbard drumline, it's amazing," said Angelica Arredondo of the Hubbard Drumline.

Chicago's maritime community re-re-enacted the landing of the original Christmas Tree Ship Friday morning at Navy Pier, a tradition which dates back to the late 1800s.

The original ship named the Rouse Simmons was a three-masted schooner that was easily recognized by the waiting crowds when they saw a Christmas Tree tied to her main mast and her decks loaded with thousands of trees destined for Chicago families.

Nineteen years ago, Chicago's Christmas Ship Committee breathed new life into the voyage and spreads holiday cheer to deserving families.

"What it really means is, somebody cares that they are no lesser, that they don't have money," said Captain Dave Truitt of Chicago's Christmas Ship Committee.

Navy Pier was buzzing with volunteers decorating the ship to welcome several organizations that will arrive Saturday to unload and deliver the trees to their new homes, making Christmas special each year.

"Do you know how many paid staff we have? Zero, because we have so many volunteers," Captain Truitt said. "Everybody loves this. They're Chicagoans. Everybody loves this."

The trees will be offloaded and distributed to community organizations. A public ceremony is set for Saturday, with music and songs from area school groups.
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