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Coast Guard carries Michigan Christmas trees to Chicago in memory of 1912 shipwreck

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw (WLBB-30) delivers Christmas trees from northern Michigan to Chicago every year as a part of Chicago's Christmas Ship program. The one-of-a-kind icebreaker and its predecessor, USCGC Mackinaw (WAGB-83), have delivered more than 25,000 Christmas trees to Chicago families in the past 20 years.

CMDR. JOHN M. STONE/U.S. COAST GUARD

By JUSTINE LOFTON | MLive.com | Published: November 28, 2019

CHEBOYGAN, Mich. (Tribune News Service) — Chicago families in need of a big, beautiful spruce to spruce up their holiday spirit and decor will receive a Northern Michigan Christmas tree next week.

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw loaded up about 1,200 trees from Dutchman Tree Farm in Manton and Thompson Township in the Upper Peninsula on Tuesday, Nov. 26, UpNorthLive reports. The cutter will leave its home port of Cheboygan for Chicago after Thanksgiving, arriving for a tree ceremony and distribution on Thursday, Dec. 5.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of modern “Christmas Tree Ship.” The tradition is meant to spread holiday cheer and honors the original Christmas tree ship, the Schooner Rouse Simmons, that sank during a tree trip in 1912. Everyone on board died, including Captain Schuenemann who was nicknamed “Captain Santa.”

“For a couple days each year, we step back from the rigors of the Fall Haul (seasonal buoy retrieval) and follow in the footsteps of Captain Schuenemann and act like Santa,” Cmdr. John M. Stone, commanding officer of the icebreaker Mackinaw, told MLive.

“The Christmas tree is an enduring symbol of hope, love and good will that brings people together. It is truly our honor and privilege to continue Captain Schuenemann’s family legacy of faith, hope and good will to all,” Stone said.

Cutter Mackinaw will take the same route as the Rouse Simmons and will stop at the shipwreck site to commemorate the ship and its crew with a wreath ceremony.

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