Singles made their way to Navy Pier this Valentine’s Day evening in hopes of finding romance aboard one of Chicago’s most iconic attractions: the Centennial Wheel.
Navy Pier partnered with Entertainment Cruises to host group speed-dating on its 200-foot Ferris wheel. The $50 ticketed event also featured a reception on a docked private yacht with an open bar, appetizers and music from DJ LoveBug.
About 90 singles — 45 men and 45 women — mingled in Navy Pier’s Crystal Gardens before heading out in groups separated by gender to the wheel. Some came with friends while others braved the night alone.
Guests took several turns on the wheel, with groups of up to eight people riding in full rotations in the enclosed, heated gondolas. The men switched cars after about 10 minutes of riding with the same women.
Susie Igras of Chicago said she came out to the event to meet people and because it’s “something to do on a Wednesday night.”
“I actually came in without any expectations just so I wouldn’t be disappointed in any way and so I can have a good time,” Igras, 31, said. “Just less pressure, less nerves, everything like that.”
Chicagoan Juan Chaidez said he bought a ticket to the “Spinning with Singles” event because he finds it awkward going out and meeting people.
The 25-year-old said when he heard about the event he figured, “Why not just give it a shot? Can’t really accomplish anything if I just stay home and be like, ‘Oh, maybe I should’ve gone, maybe I shouldn’t of gone.’”
Chaidez said he was keeping the mantra “expect the worst, hope for the best” in mind but was hoping to just have fun.
The event gave attendees sheets with icebreaker questions such as “Do you prefer a night on the town or ‘Netflix and Chill’?” to help along conversations. But aboard the wheel, guests strayed from the prompts, instead discussing the Ferris wheel, Navy Pier and career paths.
The Chicago Sun-Times sat in on a gondola with three women and two men. Two of the women were childhood friends, while the other riders didn’t know one other. In the first round, much of the conversation focused on the view from the Ferris wheel.
Two new men rotated in for the next round, and the conversation quickly moved to everyone’s college experiences and future plans.
Mara Joaquin, a speech language pathologist, analyzed Danny Marconi’s Southern accent, while Yana Ivanova, originally from Bulgaria, pointed out her own thick accent. The group exchanged jokes, with 24-year-old Marconi describing a pirate festival he recently attended.
They didn’t yet exchange the “connect” cards they filled out during registration — business-like cards with names and contact information.
Still, many of the guests went into the night with an open mind.
“[I’m] here for a good story,” Joaquin said.