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A century in the making: Navy Pier’s 100th birthday!

On July 15, a beloved Chicago landmark turns 100. And,rather than receiving gifts, Navy Pier plans to give gifts to guests that day, with free, fun events and activities, as part of the Fifth Third Bank Centennial Celebration. It’s also proud to announce a special gift to 100 Chicagoland nonprofits.

Since it’s a big birthday, Navy Pier will have a really BIG cake! The public is invited to attend a family-oriented party, featuring free slices of a giant, specially designed Eli’s Cheesecake; games and activities for children; and other surprises. The festivities are free and begin at 10 a.m.

Also as part of the Fifth Third Bank Centennial Celebration, Navy Pier will give back to the city by presenting 100 area nonprofits with a unique Navy Pier experience. Those nonprofits will receive up to 100 free rides on the new Centennial Wheel to share with their constituents and the communities they serve. The complete list of selected nonprofits will be published on the Navy Pier website.

The Fifth Third Bank Centennial Celebration continues that evening, when guests raise a glass for a special toast to Navy Pier’s second century at approximately 9:25 p.m., and then enjoy a special 100th Anniversary Fireworks show at 9:30 p.m., presented by Miller Lite.

“Navy Pier has meant so much to the city for so long. From those who danced in the now Aon Grand Ballroom during the pier’s golden age of the 1920s, to those who underwent military training here, to the students who pursued college degrees here at what was once a college campus, to those who now bring their families here today, Navy Pier has been an integral part of life in Chicago for 100 years,” said Marilynn Gardner, President and Chief Executive Officer of Navy Pier, Inc., the non-profit organization that operates Navy Pier. “Our team is working hard to lay the foundation for the millions of memories to be made as our facility and its programming evolve to better serve the needs of Navy Pier guests during its second century.”

“We are so pleased and proud to join Navy Pier as a partner in this historic celebration of 100 years,” said Robert Sullivan, Regional President and CEO, Fifth Third Bank. “We’re honored to support this landmark and its guests, and we join Navy Pier in inviting the people of Chicago, and beyond, to enjoy Navy Pier in a whole new way.”

Navy Pier, the world’s longest pier, stretches nearly three-quarters of a mile into Lake Michigan. A few highlights of its illustrious history include these distinctions:

  • 1916: Navy Pier (then named “Municipal Pier No. 2”), conceived by famed architect and city planner Daniel Burnham, was the only one of five piers Burnham envisioned for the Chicago lakefront that was actually built.
  • World War I: The Pier housed several regiments of soldiers, Red Cross and Home Defense units, as well as barracks for recruits, and even a jail for deserters. The Pier was later renamed “Navy Pier” to honor Naval veterans of WWI.
  • 1920s: A site for both shipping commerce and entertainment, it even hosted dance marathons.
  • World War II: Navy pilot training orientation took place here. As many as 200 WWII Planes may still rest at the bottom of Lake Michigan as a result of training accidents.
  • 1960s: Navy Pier was the original University of Illinois-Chicago campus and was known as “Harvard on the Rocks.”
  • 1970s: Navy Pier hosted the first “ChicagoFest,” which would later evolve into the world-renowned “Taste of Chicago” food festival.
  • 1990s and beyond: Navy Pier becomes home to a myriad of attractions, activities and events, including the Chicago Children’s Museum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Pepsi Tall Ships Festivals, the first-ever freshwater competition of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Chicago, the country’s newest Ferris wheel (named the “Centennial Wheel”), plus new arts and cultural programming.

For additional history of Navy Pier and a look at the exciting evolution underway for this landmark, a new microsite – – will go live on July 15.

Also on July 15, one of Navy Pier’s marquee partners offers its own special event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Midwest’s most-visited leisure destination. The Tony Award-winning Chicago Shakespeare Theater will perform the delightful romantic comedy, “Twelfth Night,” for free, on an outdoor stage on Navy Pier’s East End Plaza at 6:30 p.m. This production features some of Shakespeare’s quintessential poetry and comedic characters, all in a 75-minute theatrical romp that audiences of all ages will enjoy.

On Saturday, July 16, the Fifth Third Bank Centennial Celebration continues, with the presentation of Chicago Beatbox LTD at 2 p.m. in the Miller Lite Beer Garden. Feel the beat with Yuri Lane, Chicago’s legendary “Human Beatbox,” as he hosts and performs in a showcase of extraordinary talent. Beatboxers, rappers, break-dancers, and musicians converge with tap dancers, storytellers, slam poets, and singers for a symphony of sound like no other! A graffiti artist will create memorable images to mark the event. Located on the East End of Navy Pier, the Miller Lite Beer Garden is a one-of-a-kind outdoor destination on Lake Michigan with food, drinks, and live music throughout the weekend. There’s never a cover charge.

For more details on the Fifth Third Bank Centennial Celebration and upcoming events at Navy Pier, please visit www.navypier.comor the Navy Pier Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. #100YearsOfPier


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