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May 4, 2021 |

Events to return to Rosemont’s Stephens Convention Center starting in July

Russell Lissau, Daily Herald, May 4, 2021
(Featured photo credit: Joe Lewnard/Staff Photographer, 2019)

After a long, pandemic-triggered absence, trade shows and public events will return this summer to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, the facility announced Tuesday.

Events will be held at the multi-hall, 840,000-square foot center on River Road starting in July. It’s been dormant since March 2020, when the COVID-19 crisis resulted in restrictions on gatherings across the state, nation and world.

“We’re excited to take another step toward normal,” Mayor Brad Stephens said in the announcement. “It’s good for Rosemont and it’s good for Illinois.”

A specific reopening date wasn’t mentioned in the center’s announcement.

An Asian-themed animation festival called Anime Midwest is scheduled to run July 2-4. Other events scheduled for July include the Exxxotica adult entertainment expo and the Chicago Tattoo Arts convention, both set to run July 16-18.

But final dates for events are being determined, a center spokesman said.

In all, about 30 events are tentatively scheduled for the center between July and Dec. 31.

Cleaning and disinfecting protocols will be enacted to prevent spread of COVID-19 and other viruses at the venue.

“The health and safety of our attendees is our highest priority,” convention center Executive Director Chris Stephens said in the release. “We closely track and follow all best practices and guidance from the CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health.”

Before the pandemic, the Donald E. Stephens Convention and Conference Center hosted about 70 trade shows and 250 meetings and social events annually, according to the facility. The events bring about 1.5 million visitors and an $800 million economic impact to the region, village officials said.

Some draw tens of thousands of people to the venue and nearby hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

The center reopening will boost traffic “dramatically” at the Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse across the street, said Patrick Houlihan, managing partner for the Gibsons Restaurant Group.

“It has a really big trickle-down effect for everybody,” Houlihan said.

The last event held at the convention center was the World of Wheels car show in early March 2020.

Other suburban hotels and convention centers are planning to host events starting this summer, too. For example, the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo is set for June 3-5 at the Schaumburg Convention Center.

“We are going to have a complete show with wonderful vendors, fabulous classrooms and teachers, and some really great quilt displays,” said Liz Fredrick, sales manager for the event.

And the Chicago Auto Show, the Black Women’s Expo and other events are planned for Chicago’s McCormick Place.

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