A “Ferr” to Remember

    More stories from Hailey G. Boyle


    Hailey G. Boyle

    The Ferris Wheel at night.

    One of the best ways to say goodbye to summer in Chicago is a trip to Navy Pier and looking out at the breathtaking skyline while riding the giant Ferris wheel. It’s only fitting that Navy Pier let Chicago say goodbye with one last spin on the iconic red and white ride.

    After 20 years and over 16 million riders, Navy Pier began the deconstruction of the classic attraction on Sept. 28. Before the wrecking balls came in, Chicago gave the Wheel a banging send off.

    Navy Pier offered free overnight rides from 10 p.m. on Sept. 26 to 9:45 a.m. on Sept. 27. Thousands upon thousands of Chicagoans and tourists alike lined up to take their final seven minute ride and take in the best view of the Chicago skyline.

    At 2:45 a.m. only 3,200 had ridden and there was still a two hour minimum waiting period. By the time 9:45 a.m. rolled around, nearly 8,000 people had ridden and that night, Navy Pier set off their brightest fireworks, something they reserve for special events like Independence Day and New Year’s Eve.

    But before you blot your eyes with that Kleenex, don’t get discouraged, a newer, bigger wheel will take its place in 2016, just in time to celebrate the Pier’s centennial year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Navy Pier announced that the new wheel will be fifty feet taller, painted blue to match Navy Pier’s signature color and include two more gondolas, for a total of forty-two and offer interactive TV and climate control.

    So you can now ride in the winter. Technically, the old wheel was open all year round, but when weather permits.

    It feels right to have a Ferris wheel in Chicago. The first wheel premiered in Chicago at the World Fair in 1893. Even a hundred years later, a Ferris wheel is still one of Chicago’s biggest attraction, with 68,000 people riding annually. The new wheel has the potential for many more. The gondolas of the current wheel hold six riders each, while they plan for the new gondolas to hold ten riders each. When finished, it will the sixth tallest Ferris wheel in the U.S.

    In a press release, Emanuel stated that the construction of the new wheel will be privately financed by a loan from Fifth Third Bank and will not be paid for with public money.

    Normally change is met with resistance. When Macy’s announced that they were taking over Marshall Fields, people fought and turned the Marshall Fields’ sign on State Street to a historic landmark. The only mood on the pier was celebration, and some impatience, as patrons waited in a very long line, taking selfies and cramming in as many last minute pictures of the Chicago skyline at night; a young man looked at his girlfriend as they got off the Ferris wheel and said, “What a great way to spend a date night.”