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Auto Show gets street fest to rev up interest

Organizers take advantage of summer to offer food, music and new vehicles on a stretch of Indiana Avenue.

A crowd waits in line to test drive Jeep vehicles at the Jeep test driving course Saturday at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place.
A crowd waits to test drive Jeep vehicles at a course set up for the 2020 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

The Chicago Auto Show, recalibrated this year as a summer event, will include an outdoor street festival that will look like a mini-Taste of Chicago.

The show’s producer, the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, said the festival will be on Indiana Avenue, next to McCormick Place’s West Building, the home of the main event. Attendees can head outside to visit food trucks by local operators, check out new vehicles, drink Goose Island beer and hear local musicians.

The street fest will take place the first four evenings of the show, July 15-18. Dave Sloan, president of the trade association, said the action will occur on Indiana from 23rd Street to 24th Place, putting it next to the city’s historic Motor Row District. The show runs indoors through July 19.

The outdoor attractions will be only for ticketed attendees of the auto show, Sloan said. He said details are being worked out for daytime outdoor test drives by attendees and that Ford will use a parking lot for test tracks to show off its Bronco and Mustang Mach-E electric SUV.

Sponsors praised city officials for helping with the details. Ald. Pat Dowell, whose 3rd Ward includes the area, conveyed her blessing. “We’re thrilled to host this event in the South Loop and shine a light on the growing number of businesses opening and re-opening here,” she said in a news release from the association.

Local auto dealers hope the outdoor element will add interest in the show, which this year informally kicks off McCormick Place’s return to hosting big meetings. The show traditionally is held in the winter, but it was delayed this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The food trucks and tents will include menu items from Smoke Daddy, Connie’s Pizza and Andy’s Frozen Custard among others. Sloan said his group chose vendors it has worked with before and that it has a revenue-sharing arrangement with them.

Current city rules limit show attendance to 30,000 people per day and 10,000 at any given time, Sloan said. Tickets are sold by time blocks and must be bought online at chicagoautoshow.com. Getting access to the food trucks will require tickets for an evening time block.

Taste of Chicago, the annual downtown celebration canceled last year amid the pandemic, survives this summer as a series of community events.