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posted: 12/19/2013 12:36 PM

Auto show holds area's biggest one-day charity event

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  • Guests at First Look for Charity are treated to a variety of beverages and hors d'oeuvres.

      Guests at First Look for Charity are treated to a variety of beverages and hors d'oeuvres.
    Photo courtesy Chicago Auto Show, image by Leigh L

  • First Look for Charity gives guests access to vehicles on the show floor that is not always possible during the Chicago Auto Show's 10 public days.

      First Look for Charity gives guests access to vehicles on the show floor that is not always possible during the Chicago Auto Show's 10 public days.
    Photo courtesy Chicago Auto Show

  • Attendees enjoy an elegant way to see the Chicago Auto Show while raising money for 18 area nonprofits.

      Attendees enjoy an elegant way to see the Chicago Auto Show while raising money for 18 area nonprofits.
    Photo courtesy Chicago Auto Show

  • Food and beverage stations are easy to find across the show floor, measuring 1.3 million square feet.

      Food and beverage stations are easy to find across the show floor, measuring 1.3 million square feet.
    Photo courtesy Chicago Auto Show

  • The tuxedo-mandatory affair enables participants to behold the nation's largest auto show in grandeur the evening before it opens to the public.

      The tuxedo-mandatory affair enables participants to behold the nation's largest auto show in grandeur the evening before it opens to the public.
    Photo courtesy Chicago Auto Show

  • Two people in attendance at the 2013 First Look for Charity won a new vehicle, as will two people at the 2014 edition.

      Two people in attendance at the 2013 First Look for Charity won a new vehicle, as will two people at the 2014 edition.
    Photo courtesy Chicago Auto Show

 
Daily Herald report

In what is widely considered the Chicago area's largest single charitable evening, people will get to indulge their love of cars in an elegant evening that also supports their favorite charity.

The Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity benefit has raised more than $36 million for local charities. This year's pre-opening black-tie event is 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, champagne and other refreshments.

Here's what the show's Erik Higgins had to say about the event and its history:

Q: Give us some background on how this event started.

A: First Look for Charity debuted in 1992, so 2014 marks the event's 23rd edition. The auto show has to be "show ready" several days before it opens to the public because those days are filled with news conferences by the auto manufacturers in their displays.

The night before the show opens had been used as a night for dealers to see the show without the large crowds until our board of directors decided it could be put to better use by holding a fundraiser to benefit area charities.

Q: How many people does it typically draw?

A: First Look for Charity has attracted about 8,000 people each of the last couple years. While that might not seem like a very intimate occasion, there is plenty of room for everyone on a show floor that measures 1.3 million square feet.

The number also is a fraction of the head count on any of the show's 10 public days that follow, so it is a great way to see North America's largest auto show.

First Look for Charity attracted up to 12,000 people in the early 2000s, but the economic downturn hurt the event, as it did most charity events. Attendance is growing again, and our working number for 2014 is 10,000 people.

Q: How much do you hope to raise this year?

A: If we reach our attendance goal, the event will raise $2.5 million for the 18 benefiting charities.

Q: How do you decide which charities to include each year?

A: The board of directors of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, which consists of the market's new vehicle dealerships, who produce the show, chooses the nonprofits that participate in the event. Once included, a charity can remain part of the event up to nine years, when it must make way for another area charity. Former participants are eligible to apply for another term.

Q: Why does CATA do this?

A: To highlight the benevolence of the area's new-car dealers.

Q: How does it help in terms of marketing the show?

A: I guess promoting First Look for Charity reinforces to people that the Chicago Auto Show is nearing, and it offers people an elegant way to enjoy the show.

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