Aug 19, 2012

Circus Pier

Chicago's Navy Pier extends 1000 meters into Lake Michigan right from the heart of downtown, and is more a peninsula than a pier. It was build in 1916 as a dock for freight ships and passengers steamers, as well as for a cooler location for entertainment in those days prior to air-conditioning. It turned into a huge naval training center in World War II (hence its current name), with more than 15,000 pilots practicing aircraft carrier take off and landing. It then became part of the University of Illinois campus, but since 20 years it has grown into Chicago's number one tourist attraction.
Friday night is clearly the night out for Navy Pier. Its original designer was architect Burnham, the great city planner and mastermind behind building skyscrapers on Chicago's marshy grounds. He was also the man behind Chicago's World Fair in 1893, the first event to feature a Ferris wheel, after Burnham wrote out a contest for any engineering feat that would make Chicago's fair the greatest ever by surpassing Paris' recently erected Eiffel Tower. So it is more than fitting that a large Ferris wheel is the primary attraction on today's pier.
Less fitting is that the main smell for the whole 1,000 meters is scale beer, that the main sound is the music blasting too loud from a speaker system, and that the entertainment is ..........., well entertainment. GABROEN came there for the entertainment as well, for a performance of Cirque Shanghai. Our Friday night 9pm show was actually their third show of the day, and we have deep respect for the sheer physical endurance of these performers and dare-devils. It was the well known formula of balancing acts, acrobatics, and juggling, but this group did go to pretty extreme levels:

  • How many Chinese can ride on one bicycle? -  10
  • With how many balls can you juggle under your legs and behind your back? - 3, then 4, then 5, 6, and even 7 balls
  • How many motorbikes can ride circles at top speed inside a 15 meter metal sphere? - 5 (!)
  • How many can do a handstand on top of balancing chairs? - 7 (!)

So it was a great night on the town, but perhaps the first and last time for GABROEN at Navy Pier. We'll take another sunset cruise out on the lake in a heartbeat (see the earlier post Last week's birthday)

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