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My parents live right on the dangerous border between deep dish pizza-loving Chicago Bears fans and bratwurst- (and beer-) entrenched Packer fans. It's a contentious area to grow up in, for sure. But for me, those 3 hours on Sunday afternoons in the fall were designated for a solid post-lunch nap while those (supposedly) grown men ran head first into each other.

One of the great things about growing up in that area, though, was the convenience of being close to several large Midwest cities, including Chicago. And just about every year from when I was 14 until I graduated college, I made the trek down Valentine's Day weekend to see all of the gleaming wheels from Detroit, Japan and Europe at the auto show. It was my Valentine's present to my (usually lonely) self.

Most automotive journalists pass over the Chicago Auto Show for being pretty bland after Detroit and L.A. Don't tell that to the over one million people who travel to the McCormick Center every February. It may not be the biggest show in the states, but it is the largest. There's more space for automakers to display vehicles than any of the other shows, and it is timed perfectly for them to do so. All of the vehicle releases that happen at the other shows can be presented in Chicago for those pizza- and bratwurst-filled eyes to ogle. There's even enough space leftover for automakers to setup test drive tracks to take willing passengers around on (and do burnouts).

I can understand why automotive journalists don't exactly get all hyped up for the Chicago show. The Big Three need to make a statement in their hometown at the NAIAS the month before, so there goes any splashy sports car or dramatic concept debuts. What you end up with are some special editions and a truck or two (and maybe a hybrid, if any automaker is feeling particularly generous). It leads to much slower media days and fewer articles clicks from us Autoblog addicts. But auto shows weren't created for journalists. They are staged for the masses.

And the Chicago Auto Show brings the masses. Besides the local Midwest crowd, I met people this year from all over Europe and Asia. It's incredible the draw this singular event has. No other industry can bring people together from around the globe like automobiles (except maybe the latest viral video from our comrades in Russia). We all are amazed at the feats of engineering before our eyes.

This year was especially unique to me as it was the first year I was working as an exhibitor rather than visiting as a consumer. I saw myself over and over again in the people walking through our booth, staring at the vehicles displayed for their enjoyment. While I may have grown tired of answering the same question 300 times, I always enjoyed watching the pleasure this mass collection of metal, plastic, glass and rubber can bring to someone. And there's no better place to take this all in than Chicago. That's why I will continue to love this show (just not the traffic).

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