Return of smaller Chicago Auto Show in July touted as return to 'normalcy'

  • The new Ford Mustang Mach-E was introduced at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show. The annual event is being moved to July this year.

      The new Ford Mustang Mach-E was introduced at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show. The annual event is being moved to July this year. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, February 2020

Updated 5/4/2021 6:51 PM

A smaller, shorter and different-looking Chicago Auto Show is returning to McCormick Place this summer, officials announced Tuesday.

Touted by both Chicago and state politicians as a sign of a return to "normalcy," the event is slated to take place July 15-19 with crowd limitations, fewer days and displays both inside the convention hall and outdoors.


"We stand committed to providing a safe environment for all involved and will carefully adhere to the health and safety protocols and guidelines set forth by city and state officials," said Dave Sloan, Chicago Auto Show general manager. "McCormick Place is an important economic engine for our city and state, and we take very seriously the responsibility that comes with helping to get it running again."

The massive annual car show normally is held in February and is one of the longest-running auto shows in the country. It was one of the last major events to take place in Chicago in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Last April, part of McCormick Place was turned into a 2,700-bed emergency hospital that had only a few patients during the pandemic.

Capacity will be limited at the auto show and admission staggered to prevent congestion, officials said. Attendees will have to register and provide health information to attend, though a vaccine will not be required. Masks will be mandated.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the event is a "huge step away from the challenges of the pandemic and toward normalcy."

The show will take place in Hall F, which provides 470,000 square feet of indoor space and 100,000 square feet outdoors.

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"Around this time last year, McCormick Place was turned into an alternate care facility that significantly aided our city during the first wave of COVID-19, making today's announcement all the more special," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "In the same spirit of collaboration between government, health care, community and corporate partners, we are now able to bring conventions back to our beloved convention center in a way that is safe and reflective of our progress in slowing and stopping the spread of this virus."

The return of the car show signals a greater willingness by state and local leaders to fully reopen businesses and tourism as well. Lightfoot said she hopes to have Chicago "fully open" by July 4, while Pritzker said the state is open a "similar timeline" to reopen.

Infection and hospitalization metrics from COVID-19 have been on the decline for weeks, indicating vaccinations are at least keeping widespread outbreaks at bay. However, public health officials urge everyone to remain vigilant by wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

"We have seen steady progress in recent weeks with a downward trend in our leading COVID-19 metrics, and more and more people stepping up to get vaccinated, which is so important in getting us out of this pandemic," said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady.

More than 4 million Illinoisans are now considered fully vaccinated, which is almost a third of the population. Health officials believe at least 80% of a population needs to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

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