CHICAGO (WWJ/AP) – A U.S. Coast Guard ship loaded with more than 1,200 Michigan Christmas trees has arrived in downtown Chicago.

The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw set sail late last month, traveling from its homeport of Cheboygan down Lake Michigan to Chicago.

The ice cutter’s voyage carries on the tradition of the Rouse Simmons – known as the original Christmas tree ship – which began delivering trees in the late 1800s.

That ship was captained by Herman Schuenemann, who continued the holiday tradition for three decades until his boat sank in 1912 while carrying the evergreens.

The Mackinaw paid tribute to Schuenemann’s crew during by dropping a wreath into water where their ship went down.

The trees will be unloaded at Chicago’s Navy Pier on Saturday to be distributed to needy families.

According to the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, there are 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. every year, with about 350 million growing on U.S. farms at any given time.

Michigan is among the top real Christmas tree-producing states, along with Oregon, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, 80 percent of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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