CHICAGO (CBS) — Rainy weather did not stop Saturday’s kickoff to summer programming along the Chicago Riverwalk.

The daylong celebration of the Riverwalk, which was formally completed last fall, marked the opening of the extended Riverwalk, featuring walking tours, fish puppet parades for the kids, party boat cruises into the evening, and a pyrotechnic waterfall to cap it all off.

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The day’s events started along the Riverwalk between Wells and Franklin with Mayor Rahm Emanuel telling a crowd gathered in the rain that “the City of Chicago with this Riverwalk, with what we see with our boathouses across the rest of the city, have really embraced a second waterfront.”


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The mayor noted that Chicago is one of the few Great Lakes cities to have kept industry away from the Great Lakes, choosing instead, to keep industry along the river. But the river has now been transformed from an industrial waterway to one of art, culture, music, architecture and commerce.

Mark Kelly, commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, says Chicago’s Riverwalk provides an escape and adventure for Chicagoans.

“This is where you leave the city and then you return and embrace the city. It’s the glorious architecture, the iconic bridges, it’s the bustle on the river, it’s the promenade, and you see everyone else walking. It’s all of our tour operators, our vendors.”

Zeita Merchant is the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Chicago Marine Safety Unit and says while the Riverwalk is pretty and fun, it’s also still serious business.

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“We are not only responsible for the safety and security of this waterway, but we are responsible to facilitate the commerce from lake Michigan through the Chicago River on down to the Mississippi River and on down to the Gulf.”