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City to celebrate 50th anniversary of JFK’s O’Hare dedication

O'Hare Airport 50 years ago Saturday March 23 1963 President John F. Kennedy dedicated O'Hare Airport declaring it 'one wonders

O'Hare Airport, 50 years ago, Saturday, March 23, 1963, President John F. Kennedy dedicated O'Hare Airport declaring it "one of the wonders of the modern world." With him is Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. To commemorate the event, O'Hare kicks off six days of celebrations with live music almost every day.

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Updated: April 24, 2013 6:09AM

Fifty years ago Saturday, President John F. Kennedy dedicated O’Hare International Airport, declaring it “one of the wonders of the modern world.’’

At the time, O’Hare served 19 airlines and 16 million passengers a year, winning it the title of the world’s busiest airport. As Kennedy put it on March 23, 1963: “There is no other airport in the world which serves so many people and so many airplanes .... [O’Hare] could be classed as one of the wonders of the modern world.’’

O’Hare has since slipped to fourth-busiest in the world, but is still up for a celebration. The City Department of Aviation will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s O’Hare dedication with six days of celebrations, starting Saturday.

O’Hare opened to commercial air traffic in 1955, serving nearly 177,000 passengers its first year. Today it serves more than 76 million a year. Before 1949 it was known as Orchard Field and was home to an aircraft assembly plant. It was renamed Chicago O’Hare International Airport in 1949 in honor of war hero Edward “Butch” O’Hare, a Navy pilot.

In celebration of its dedication, live music will be featured from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at each terminal. Banners at each terminal will list each day’s celebration theme as well as concession sites offering special discounts.

Plus, on Saturday, O’Hare will welcome its 51st airline — airberliner — and its first non-stop air service between Chicago and Berlin.

Tuesday’s Family Day will include jugglers, face painters, balloon twisters and clowns from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The celebration will culminate with a Friday cake-cutting ceremony treating passengers in Terminal 1 to free slices of Eli’s Cheesecake.

For a more complete list of events, as well as information and photos on significant events at O’Hare, go to

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