Chicago's McCormick Place employees back to work as venue prepares to reopen for events

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's McCormick Place is once again buzzing.

The popular Chicago convention center is preparing to host the Nike Tournament of Champions this week, and next week, the show floor on the west building will host the indoor portion of the Chicago Auto Show Special Edition.

RELATED: Chicago's McCormick Place announces return of shows, conventions in July

That means trade show decorators, like Tom DeGrado, are back to work.

'It's great here. It's great! I did a little something for Fab Tech, which is supposed to being coming in September. That's a good sign," DeGrado said. "It's all hearsay until you see them coming, just like the auto show here. We are today. Happy you be here."

DeGrado is among a first wave of workers returning to McCormick Place, the ones who you probably won't see at the shows but the ones who get things done.

"This is what I live for -- hearing the noise, hearing the machines move," said Executive Stewarding Manager Demonique Fulton.

RELATED: Chicago Auto Show 2021 returns to McCormick Place during summer

Fulton was out of work for almost a year. The father of five had to take a part-time retail job to keep something coming into the household.
"I had to go into savings -- a lot towards the beginning of this year, and actually got called back to work just in time to make sure we can live a more comfortable life that we are used to having," Fulton said.

"The bills kept coming. You never really knew when you were going back to work," added Morgan Lamb, the catering sales manager.

Lamb is grateful to see the halls getting busy and looks forward to bringing more staff back.

WATCH: Chicago Auto Show 2021 Sneak Peek
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The 2021 Chicago Auto Show is an indoor-outdoor hybrid event from July 15 through July 19 at the McCormick Place West Building and outside on Indiana Avenue.



"All the hustle and bustle, the decorators putting up signs -- it's exciting! It gets you back. Normal life is coming back," she said.

So far 1,000 workers have been called back. With 122 events scheduled at McCormick Place over the next year and a half, they hope to get back to normal staffing levels by next summer, but it depends on whether people are ready to return to big events.
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