By Marie Saavedra

CHICAGO (CBS) — A lot is different this year about the Chicago Auto Show – as like with every industry, the pandemic forced presenters to think outside the box.

In this case – with the Auto Show being held in the summer rather than in the winter as it usually is – some events went literally outside. CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra took us Thursday night to this Auto Show first.

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Change is hard, but it can also force you to get creative. The idea for a Street Fest came about when the Auto Show switched gears due to the pandemic – allowing two old friends to attend while sipping beers in short-sleeved shirts on Indiana Avenue while a band played a Bo Diddley cover.

“I came to specifically see this guy and a couple cars inside,” said Christopher Pakula.

Pakula and his friend David Berg usually attend the show during its yearly February stint. But this year it’s shorter – and in July – making all the outdoor festivity possible.

“Yeah, you can’t walk around the streets in February – no way – yeah, so I think it’s great,” Pakula said.

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The first ever Street Fest has indeed been quite popular.

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“It’s the 120th anniversary of the first Chicago Auto Show, so it’s kind of cool to be
trying this for the first time,” said Auto Show General Manager Dave Sloan.

Sloan said the show had all the cars and test tracks, so they added food trucks and music for four nights.

“We’ve been trying to build our evening attendance for some time, so this gives us an idea to try to get that done,” he said.

Not only is the street fest a fun idea, it is also a more COVID-safe one. The show included this outdoor plan in its pitch to the city, and it was well-received.

“The mayor really liked the outdoor option when she was looking at our health and safety plan before the protocols were lifted,” Sloan said. “So it helped us get approved to be open.”

He’d be happy to know that people like Pakula and Berg like it too.

“Having the tracks outside instead of inside, you get that open-air feel like you’re really in the car,” Berg said. “Food trucks and a nice cold beer, it’s nice!”

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They’ll remember this at next year’s show, which aims to be back indoors in February.

Marie Saavedra