A half-century ago, O’Hare International Airport’s main terminal complex was just over a year old, and the O’Hare branch of the Blue Line was another 20 years away. While its traffic had surpassed that of Midway Airport, O’Hare had been the busier airport for only a few years.
On March 23, 1963, President John F. Kennedy took part in O’Hare’s formal dedication, and the city Department of Aviation will be marking the 50th anniversary of the dedication over the next week.
The airport was constructed in 1942-43 as a manufacturing plant for military transport planes during World War II.
It’s three-letter code, ORD, comes from Orchard Field Airport, its name after its role in World War II ended. The airport was renamed after Edward “Butch” O’Hare, the U.S. Navy’s first flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II, in 1949.
When O’Hare was formally dedicated on March 23, 1963, the airport served about 16 million passengers via 19 airlines with 426,000 flights per year. Today, O’Hare serves more than 67 million passengers on 50 airlines with nearly 880,000 flights annually, according to the Department of Aviation.
For passengers traveling through O’Hare from March 23- 29, Aviation and its airport partners have a number of activities planned.
On Saturday, O’Hare welcomes airberlin, offering the first non-stop air service between Chicago and Berlin with an inaugural flight into O’Hare. From 2-5 p.m. all terminals will feature a variety of live music.
Monday will be Military Appreciation Day, to honor those who serve or have served in the military. The USO will staff tables in domestic terminals where passengers can learn more about O’Hare’s two USO centers for military personnel and their families. A military band will perform in Terminal 2 and a variety of live music will be featured in other terminals.
Tuesday will be Family Day, marked with family-themed entertainment in all terminals, including jugglers, face painters, balloon twisters and clowns from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Children’s activity books will be distributed at food and beverage concessions all week.
Jazz bands will perform in all terminals from 2 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, for Business Community Day.
Friday will be Celebrate Chicago Day. Staff from Choose Chicago will distribute promotional materials about the city to passengers in baggage claim. International music performances will take place in all terminals from 2-5 p.m., and Eli’s Cheesecake Café will host a celebratory cake-cutting and offer free slices to passengers in Terminal 1 at 1:30 p.m.
Additionally, during the weeklong celebration, airport concessions will offer discounts and specialty items, and retail locations will give away 50th anniversary pens.
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