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Navy Pier celebrates as it turns 100

Crowds gather at Navy Pier Friday to celebrate the pier's 100th anniversary. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

Navy Pier celebrated turning a century old on Friday with an all-day birthday party that included a 1,000 pound dessert from Chicago’s famed Eli’s Cheesecake Factory.

“Navy Pier has been an important part of the city of Chicago for 100 years,” said Andrea Zopp, deputy mayor of Chicago.

People ride swings at Chicago’s Navy Pier during a 100th anniversary celebration Friday. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times
People ride swings at Chicago’s Navy Pier during a 100th anniversary celebration Friday. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

Zopp went over the pier’s history as a military base, University of Illinois at Chicago campus, and home to the ChicagoFests.

In keeping with the birthday party theme, the crowd, which included several local leaders, sang “Happy Birthday” before cutting the massive Eli’s Cheesecake.

The shape of the pier’s cake, which took ten days to make and could feed 4,000 people, was a first for Eli’s, said Eli’s president Marc Schulman.

Laurel Boger lifts a portion of a 1,000 pound Eli’s cheesecake assembled for Navy Pier’s 100th anniversary celebration Friday. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times
Laurel Boger lifts a portion of a 1,000 pound Eli’s cheesecake assembled for Navy Pier’s 100th anniversary celebration Friday. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

The cheesecake for “Navy Pier Centennial Day” was baked in three 350-pound pieces, formed and arranged into the number “100.”

Violetta Cantu, of Orland Park, was impressed. Even though the line for cake was long, she said it only took 15 minutes to get her slice. “It’s a cool treat on a summer day,” Cantu said.

Many also took advantage of the party to ride the recently opened Centennial Wheel.

“I think it’s a good thing to get here early…, said Denver resident Randy Bush as the line behind him grew longer.

Musicians perform under Navy Pier’s Centennial Wheel during a 100th anniversary celebration Friday. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times
Musicians perform under Navy Pier’s Centennial Wheel during a 100th anniversary celebration Friday. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

Other day-time festivities included games for the kids, pop-up performances along the boardwalk, and photo opportunities with a “Mr. Peanut” mascot.

The party was expected to end with an outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and a fireworks show.

Jiang Ding, of Chicago, signs a birthday card for Navy Pier during a 100th anniversary celebration Friday. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times
Jiang Ding, of Chicago, signs a birthday card for Navy Pier during a 100th anniversary celebration Friday. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times