Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a clarification that the Adopt-a-Sailor program is not participating in this event.
By Bob Susnjara
Some Great Lakes Naval Station sailors will get to relax in what'll become their own 1,600-square-foot pad for a few hours on Thanksgiving Day.
Holiday Inn Gurnee Convention Center will feed 10 sailors at a Thanksgiving buffet and provide them with use of the Presidential Suite, sans alcoholic beverages. It's the first such effort by the hotel and it veers from the typical invitations to sailors from Chicago-area families, churches and veterans organizations.
Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said the hotel's desire to host the sailors is another example of how village businesses are known to give back to the area.
"Hands down, I have a tremendous business community," she said.
In between her duties at home and other public appearances on Thanksgiving Day, Kovarik plans to drop by the Holiday Inn to thank the sailors for their service and welcome them to Gurnee.
Senior sales manager Patricia Williams said it was a team effort to assemble the offer that includes the suite, dinner with other guests and much more. She said the fact her husband is a Navy veteran prompted her to pitch the idea.
"I'll always have a passion for that department of the military," Williams said.
Holiday Inn Gurnee general manager Stephen McCulley said he has fond memories of growing up in Hoffman Estates with Great Lakes sailors at his family's Thanksgiving celebrations, so he was more than willing to invite the military to the hotel this year when approached with the idea.
McCulley said the refurbished hotel's Presidential Suite typically costs $299 per night. It's the size of four standard hotel rooms.
"It's just a great opportunity to take care of them (sailors)," McCulley said.
The 10 Great Lakes sailors better arrive to the hotel hungry. They'll start with a Thanksgiving dinner featuring turkey, sage gravy, cranberry citrus relish, garlic mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream.
Later, the sailors will hang out in their suite for about six hours of poker, football on television and a lighter spread including sliced roast beef with creamy horseradish, potato skins, cheese and crackers, chips, fresh popcorn, soft drinks and more pie. All of the food will be prepared under the direction of executive chef Christopher Solare.
Holiday Inn will be responsible for picking up the sailors and returning them to the base by 9:30 p.m. Thursday.