103rd Chicago Auto Show to Open Feb. 11-20 at McCormick Place

103rd Chicago Auto Show to Open Feb. 11-20 at McCormick Place

At the first Chicago Auto Show in 1901, few could have imagined that the small gathering of automobiles in the Chicago Coliseum would one day blossom into one of the world's most impressive and influential auto shows. But for 10 days from February 11-20 in the colossal lakefront McCormick Place exhibition center, the Chicago Auto Show will demonstrate that the vision of those few inventive companies so long ago was properly focused.

"The beauty of this show is that it reinvents itself every year and never ceases to amaze," said auto show chairman Kevin Mize. "We have this astounding palette upon which our exhibitors take their vehicles, displays, imagination and ingenuity and create an auto show that simply wows the public--and often their counterparts."

"It's not like there's a big meeting of the exhibitors where a theme or path for their displays is chosen," continued Mize. "Every company decides what's important to them and then they go about seeking ways to wow their target audiences--and they never disappoint."

"You might think that there was a decision this year to do ride-and-drive experiences, as there are four of them on the show floor. Four of them! There's just no other venue in North America that could have said 'yes' to five indoor test tracks, but in Chicago we can. It's simply amazing," said Mize.

Formerly the show's solo indoor test track, Jeep will return with the steep hills and off-road fun that has attracted thousands. But this year show goers will also be able to jump in the seat to experience offerings from Ford's Chicago-built Explorer SUV; a full-on construction site to demonstrate Toyota's pickup trucks and SUVs; and the talk-of-the-country electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt.

"The collection of these vehicles as static displays alone would be enough to warrant coming to the show," said co-chairman Steve Foley. "But to have the 'North American Car and Truck of the Year' winners available for our patrons to experience in motion is over the top.

"You know, at the first Chicago Auto Shows there was a wooden board test track that surrounded the cars," said Foley. "But that's about where the similarities between then and now would end. I bet the first show would fit completely in just one of our bigger displays now.

"We don't want to suggest that if you're not 'moving' at the show it's not appealing, as that's clearly not the case," continued Foley. "The displays jump to life and capture the imagination of everyone who comes near."

Nearly 1,000 vehicles will be on display on the McCormick Place show floor, including cars, trucks, SUVs, hybrids, competition and concepts.

First Look for Charity

Preceding the opening of the show to the general public will be the 20th anniversary of First Look for Charity, the benevolent black-tie event that benefits 18 worthwhile organizations. The event will be held Thursday evening, Feb. 10, from 6:30-10:30 p.m.  First Look invites guests to view the show in a less crowded, more elegant form with extensive hors d'oeuvres, desserts, champagne, wine, beer and soft beverages.

This year's theme follows The Greatest Auto Race on Earth, which in 1908 began in New York City and ended in Paris. The show floor will boast cuisine that traces a path from the Big Apple to the City of Lights. Guests will be able to sample food and drink offerings commemorating the famous race with offerings representing San Francisco, Japan, Berlin and more.

Two lucky patrons of the show will drive home in new cars, as well, as a sporty 2011 Honda CR-Z and a stylish 2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo will be drawn for at approximately 8:30 p.m. that night. The Honda is courtesy of the American Honda Motor Company and the Sonata is compliments of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Hyundai Dealers.

"In addition to the fun we're having with our food, drinks and the wonderful cars that will be won, we're elevating the evening's entertainment level, as well," says Chairman Mize. "The acts we've booked will add even more fun to an already exciting evening."

The Chicago Auto Show has arranged for three musical acts to add to the festivity. Beginning about 7 p.m., contemporary urban jazz musician Rick Braun and blues rockers the North Mississippi Allstars will perform on separate stages. Then, following the 8:30 p.m. drawings for the prize vehicles, KC and the Sunshine Band take to the stage to reprise an almost endless catalog of quickly recognized songs.

Tickets are $250 each and are available in advance by visiting the show's Web site, www.ChicagoAutoShow.com or at the door.

Appearances and Special Days

The auto show has long been a magnet for auto enthusiasts, but it also offers attraction for those wishing to seek autographs and photos with celebrities from the sports and entertainment worlds. Special appearances are booked by the exhibitors and are publicized daily on the show's Web site.

Special promotional days are scheduled, as well. Women's Day on Tuesday, Feb. 15 will offer a $7 ticket for all women and feature programs on the purchase, lease or maintenance of vehicles-or just the plain fun of ownership and motoring. The show's annual Food Drive benefits A Safe Haven Foundation and gives a $4 discount off the full admission price for those who bring three cans of food for the organization. Finally, Telemundo's Hispanic Day will be held Friday, Feb. 18. Please visit the Telemundo Web site for full information.

A Great Entertainment Value

Tickets for the auto show are $11 for adults; $7 for seniors aged 62 and older; $7 for children 7-12; and free for children 6 and younger when they accompany a paying adult. Half price discount tickets are available at local BP gas stations with purchase. Weekday discount coupons for a $4 discount off the regular full admission price are available at various local new-car dealers. Discounts are also available for schools and groups.

After 6 p.m. parking for the show at McCormick Place lots is being offered for the first time for the special rate of $10. Please follow the signs to the lots. For full lot location maps, please visit the show's Web site. A daytime discount is available in McCormick Place's Lot B at $14.

Hours for the show are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb 11-19 and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on closing day, Feb. 20. Tickets may be purchased online at www.DriveChicago.com.  There is no service fee for online ticket sales and those purchases are valid for any public day of the show.  The show's box office will close one hour prior to the end of the show each day.

TV Specials

For those who can't wait to see what's inside the show-or those who enjoy watching it over and over again-special programming will be produced to bring the annual event into the living rooms of millions. 

On Saturday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. NBC5 Chicago will go live with its hour-long special from the floor of McCormick Place. Anchored by Brant Miller and Ginger Zee,  and joined by floor correspondents Charlie Wojciechowski, Paula Faris, LeeAnn Trotter and Matt Rodewald, the Peacock channel's auto show tour de force will bring the nation's biggest auto show onto TV screens across the greater Chicagoland area in HD, of course. The show will repeat Sunday morning, Feb. 13 at 11 a.m.

The face and distinctive voice of automotive legend John Davis has long been known as the anchor of TV's MotorWeek series, seen across the nation. For the past 15 years, Davis has teamed up the resources of his Maryland Public TV show with the first TV station to ever broadcast the Chicago Auto Show (in 1950) on WGN TV. This year, Davis will partner with co-host Val Warner for their collaboration from the floor. Joining them for the 6 p.m. broadcast on Saturday, Feb. 12 will be reporters Marcus Leshock and Dan Ponce.

Addressing the Hispanic community, Chicago's Telemundo will also join in the long-format TV specials at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12

Web site and Social Media

The show's Web site, www.ChicagoAutoShow.com is unparalleled in its ability to supply those coming to the show-or those too far away to visit-with complete information about the nation's biggest auto show. Not only will the site direct visitors to pages helping them prior to their visit, but will also give the Web user the ability to "walk" the show floor via Web Walks that virtually put someone in the middle of the exposition. Additionally, Web cams strategically placed in the rafters of McCormick Place will allow Web users to direct where the cameras look.

"I've seen a lot of show Web sites," said General Manager Dave Sloan, "but I'm willing to stack ours against any major civic or automotive event. It's incredibly deep with information, links to our exhibitors, lists of cars on display and our popular historic archive of photography dating back more than a century. The site is one where a user could get lost for hours and just enjoy our current or past shows from the comfort of their den."

Facebook and Twitter are social networking Web sites where auto enthusiasts can keep connected and stay up to date with news, events and other car fan friends, both locally and from around the world. Fans can join the Chicago Auto Show's Facebook Group by going to www.Facebook.com/ChicagoAutoShow where members can receive inside information about the Chicago Auto Show, and interact with others. The group also provides a message board to post a question or comment and a photo album where members can share show photos.

The Chicago Auto Show also offers an official Twitter page. For everyone who becomes a follower of our "tweets," show officials promise they won't be disappointed, as all the latest news and information right from the show floor will be delivered into the palm of the Tweeter's hand. @ChiAutoShow brings visitors the show in 140 characters or less!

As a member of either group, fans can expect exclusive information that hasn't yet been released to the general public, inside scoops from the producers of the show, and the chance to win free tickets.

A Part of Chicago for More than a Century

"This is a marvelous, generational event," says Dave Sloan. "The members of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association take great pride in producing a quality, family-oriented show each year that not only contributes to local charities, but to the overall fabric of the City of Chicago. Few events in Chicago-or anywhere, for that matter-can claim a history as rich as ours. It's a great place for enthusiasts and those who are looking for a great entertainment value."

"With our test track ride-and-drive experiences, special days and affordable prices, we know it's a place where entertainment dollars are spent wisely. After all, who doesn't love cars?"

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Volume 2011, Issue 1, Posted 3:40 PM, 02.06.2011