Chicago Auto Show Opens, as City Moves Towards Return to Normalcy

The Chicago Auto Show, which is normally hosted in February, opened on July 15, marking the first tentative steps towards a return to normalcy and the recovery of the city’s tourism industry that has been reeling since the COVID-19 outbreak.

The show will run through to July 19.

This year’s event, the 113th time that the Chicago Auto Show has been hosted, will be held over five instead of the usual 10 days. The event is also smaller as it is being hosted in McCormick Place’s West Hall, with half the normal indoor exhibition space.

West Hall is only 470,000 square feet, less than half of the 1.2 million square feet that the exhibition space that Chicago Show used at McCormick’s North and South buildings in the past.

The 2021 Chicago Auto Show — the longest such running show in the U.S. — will take advantage of an outdoor space to bring attendees new test track experiences, dozens of vehicles to test drive and electric vehicle demonstrations designed to showcase the latest cars, trucks and SUVs to consumers. 

Show organizers also added a new Street Fest element the first four evenings of the show. The Chicago Auto Show Street Fest will include food trucks, local brews and street musicians, a statement announced. 


In the shadow of COVID-19

Although Chicago has fully opened up, show organizers still have some COVID-19 protocols in place. For example, the Chicago Auto Show is using an electronic ticketing process and attendees who have not been vaccinated will be asked to wear masks, along with anyone taking a test drive.

In addition, there will be sanitisation stations throughout the event and attendees’ temperatures will be scanned and a medical questionnaire must be filled out before entry is allowed into the event.

Organizers expect to pull in at least 30,000 attendees daily.

The significance of the hosting of the Chicago Auto Show is not lost on the organizers of the show. The 2020 show was the last major tourism event held in the city, before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across the state and the nation.


Open Chicago

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said hosting this year’s show was, in part, thanks to the COVID-19 vaccination program.

“We are here today because we are taking an important step forward — a step away from the challenges of the pandemic and toward normalcy. The lifesaving power of vaccinations and the hard work by the people of our city and state has led us here. And because of our state’s high vaccination rate, the highest in the Midwest, the beloved Chicago Auto Show is once again able to take place,” said Pritzker.

Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, echoed Pritzker’s sentiments, saying the Chicago Auto Show marked “a significant moment in our COVID-19 recovery journey, as it sends a strong signal that our city is not only open but more than ready to safely host large-scale events.”

Show organizers began working with McCormick Place officials six months ago to co-develop an opening plan, as hosting of the show was part of the broader Open Chicago initiative to safely and fully reopen the city.

“Today’s opening of the Chicago Auto Show is incredibly important, not just to McCormick Place, but to the city and state given the economic impact it brings to our economy. We are thrilled to welcome the show, its guests and our employees back to McCormick Place for a special summer edition of this iconic event. As a long-time client, the Chicago Auto Show has been a true partner during the COVID pandemic and we are grateful for their support,” said Larita Clark, CEO, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA).

The Chicago Tribune reported that the Chicago Auto Show was the first of 47 major events scheduled at McCormick Place through December 2022, bringing an estimated $2.4 billion in economic impact back to the city. Two new additions to the events calendar are the Experiential Marketing Summit in October and C2E2 — the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo — in December.

With Chicago reopening and with all these exhibitions lined up, visitors to the city have a chance to check out Chicago hotels with rooftop bars and also to take pictures at the city’s hottest Instagram spots right now.

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