Just found an artical I had published in 2004 about the International Party Show in Chicago, enjoy…
Arrive at London Heathrow Airport at 12.00 noon in good time to catch BA Flight 298 to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The flight had been booked back in December 2003 to insure a good price (£307.00 return ) and it was not long before Myself, Matt Reynolds from Balloon Crazy in London and Bob Matharu from Euro Heat International
( EHI ) in Belgium we taking full advantage of British Airways hospitality as we sipped our complimentary drinks at 40000 ft whilst travelling at 560 mph across the Atlantic Ocean on a new Boeing 777 heading towards the USA and our final destination, Chicago.
Our first sighting of Chicago was as we made our final approach across Lake Michigan ( more of a small ocean than a lake ) just before sunset. O’Hare International Airport is situated about 20miles from downtown Chicago but the size of the skyscrapers we impressive to say the least.
March in Chicago is very cold and windy as we all stood outside the arrivals terminal in temperatures well below freezing but with a strong wind taking it down to a knee shaking –10. Free shuttle buses run to each hotel within the Rosemont area where the show is held which is about 10 minutes drive from the airport so if was not long until I was in the warmth of my hotel and experiencing the overpowering but charming America hospitality. With the time difference of 6hrs behind the UK there was plenty of time to once again meet up with Matt and Bob for a drink in the bar and then retire to our rooms for a well earnt rest and await for what lay ahead.
Friday 12th March
Arrived at the show and was greeted by Jodie Copley who had asked me to teach a course whilst in America which I was really looking forward to. My seminar was not to be delivered until Sunday 14th but this was no time to take it easy. I had to locate ACP ( Advanced Creative Products ) who had agreed to supply all my products for the training course. ACP have some fantastic products and there web sight is well worth a look (http://www.acpdecor4u.com ) and stock can be purchased in the UK from Up Up and Away. Once all my stock had been gathered up it was time to head off and have a look at the show. The good thing about being a teacher at the show is that you pass gets you everywhere. The balloon section of the show is about twice the size of the show held over here at Telford and contains most of the major players such as Pioneer , Anagram / Amscam , Conwin , Flutter Fettie and Royaltex. The Americans do not build there stand like we do in the UK , they tend to have booths which are draped in white cloth and you have to search for stand names but never the less their enthusiasm for their products is paramount.
Once through the balloon section you come across the fancy dress area which is about the size of 4 football pitches. The stands within this area are immense and each stages its own mini fashion show at least 3 or 4 time a day. Once passed the scantly clad women dressed in Stars and Stripes bathing costumes which I must admit needs a second ( third and possible forth look ) you enter the HALLOWEEN area which for me was the best area of all. I’m not really into Halloween but you have to give it to the Americans , they are passionate about it and every one of the 500+ stands seamed to offer something new, from alien babies, to life like bodies in coffins that at a flick of a switch turn into the living dead , sit upright in the coffin and eject liquid at you. Every were you walk you hear the sound of simulated gun fire from decaying bodied holding machine guns, spine chilling screams as rotating blades cut mad men in half. Human beast jumps out at you from behind bushed and stands and if you can survive all of this then stand back and watch other people pass these stands and remember that your facial expression was possible the same as theirs, but the best is yet to come…..
The Dark Zone…..
This area is like walking around a giant Haunted House at a theme park with every corner unleashing yet another blood drenched ghoul ,a rabid mad dog leaping out of a filling cabinet with fangs dripping in saliva or 20ft high animatronic aliens walking towards you. If you can handle all this and more then this area is a must as you stumble across yet another pile of decomposing bodies drenched in blood and covered with thousands of wriggling maggots ( they look realistic and the smell is terrible ). Around the next corner is a man playing an organ which a closer inspection reveals his eyes popping out of there sockets, blood pumping from his stomach and a hand emerging from his chest holding a beating heart pumping blood all over the place. ( a real must for the photo album ). This area is not all morbid and holds some great special effect such as the Elevator Ride To Hell which I thought was very cleaver since you do not leave the ground but the effect and sounds give the impression of you plummeting hundreds of feet. Then there was the VORTEX, this has got to be the best part of the Dark Zone. Its about 30ft long and all you have to do is walk from one end to the other on a slightly elevated platform while the drum the platform runs through rotates at about 30 revolutions per minute and is painted with fluorescent dots. Easy I hear you say but no , its not , 2 steps in and you are hanging on to the rails for dear life as the illusion takes over and you feel you are being spun upside down. Gary Watts from Up Up and Away and Myself tried this several times and came to the same conclusion, IF YOU WALK THROUGH IT WITH YOU EYES SHUT THEN IT’S A PIECE OF PISS.
If you decide to take time out and travel the 3900-mile to Chicago then also take time out from the show a get Downtown. My first experience was the Friday night when I agreed to meet two friends from California. A Taxi took me the 20-mile journey down the freeway which took about 45minute due to it being rush hour. You can’t help but look like a tourist as you cross the River Chicago and are meet by a towering wall of skyscrapers situated against a dark sky, their lights ablaze as they tower above you with some over 100 stories high ( quarter of a mile up ) and then you step out of the taxi and you then know why they call it The Windy City.
The Taxi ride costs between $25 and $45 depending on what time of day you travel due to rush hour traffic but you can get the train ( Subway ) and yet again the Hotel provide a free shuttle bus back to the airport where the trains depart every 10 minutes with a one way ticket costing about $1.70. Be sure to try the Steak Houses and Blues Bars as these let you sample the real Chicago Spirit but leave plenty of time for sight seeing as Chicago is a very impressive and clean city. The Sears Tower and The John Hancock Building are a must and so is Gap on Michigan Avenue.
Saturday 13th March
Off we go around the show again collecting free samples and paying with all the new gadgets America has to offer. The novelty areas have some great items not yet available over here with a lot of them offering free delivery / shipping on minimum orders placed at the show. Because the show covers a large area its great to go around it 3 or 4 times because with every turn you make you come across something new.
Saturday evening was spent in the company of Matt Reynolds , Bob Matharu , Jodie Copley and Gary Watts and we graced the Cheesecake Factory with our presents for several large drinks, a sumptuous meal and a mouthwatering slice of their famous cheesecake that was to die for which when the bill was called for came to an astonishing $140 ( £70.00 ). Not bad for 5. Cheers Bob
Sunday 14th March
The morning was spent wandering around the show trying to work of the calories from the previous nights meal but also remembering that at 4pm that afternoon I would be delivering my training course to god knows how may Americans. At 3pm I made my way over to the seminar area and at 3.45pm I was all wired up and ready to go. Only about 20 people in the seats but I think they enjoyed themselves at my expense as about halfway through the seminar I slipped and fell of the stage, well it seamed to break the ice if nothing else. The show closes at about 5pm every day so there was just enough time to gather up my belonging and brave the severe Chicago weather and head back to the Hotel for a well earned drink in the bar.
Monday 15th March
Took a day off from the show and traveled down town on the train the meet up once again with my friends from California. We visited the Sears Tower, 130 floor up and the view is breathtaking, then off to the John Hancock Building for pre Lunch Cocktails on the 98th Floor and then lunch at Ed DeBeveics which is a typical Chicago style dinner.
After lunch it was shop till you drop (Hello , there’s Gap again ). Visited a few more bars (well , it would have been rude not to ) and then in the evening meet up with Matt and Bob to ( as they say in America ) Shoot some pool
Tuesday 16th March
This was to be our last day in Chicago as out flight home was at 8.00pm that evening. Matt , Bob and Myself made a final sweep of the show which closed at 12.00 noon. In my opinion the show is a must for all Party Companies especially if you are involved with Halloween so if you get the chance to visit then do so. I was told that the show was quite this year due to the fact that IBAC had been moved to California in April but that it should be back in Chicago in 2005 so but the dates in your diary and get out there because you will come back motivated.
Thanks to Matt Reynolds who pulled a few strings on the way back we were all upgraded to Club Class, it was the icing on the cake and the end to a perfect show. Cheers Matt
Well Done Transworld , see you in 2005