While the greater Chicago area has hosted a variety of pipe shows since the 1980s, none have grown to the size, scope, and significance of the Chicagoland International Pipe and Tobacciana Show, organized by the Chicagoland Pipe Collectors Club (CPCC). The CPCC show debuted in 1996, and though it moved venues more than once in its early years, it became associated most closely with the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois. From 2002 through 2019, Pheasant Run was practically synonymous with the Chicago Pipe Show: Attendees often procured the same rooms year after year; local restaurants and those within the resort became traditional reunion locales; and the show floor and the smoking tent were welcome refuges during Pheasant Run's nearly two-decade tenure. That tradition ended, though, after 2019, with that year's show marking the end of the agreement between the CPCC and Pheasant Run; the resort's ownership changed hands, and the new proprietors had other plans for the location. Such climatic change, combined with the difficulties of COVID-19, precipitated a two-year hiatus for the Chicago Pipe Show.
The End of Pheasant Run
Pheasant Run has been closed since 2020, its exact future undetermined. Renovation? Demolishment to make way for housing? The plans for the property remained unknown, but in a twisted instance of irony, it was reported that the weekend before this year's Chicago Pipe Show, Pheasant Run suffered damage from numerous fires. The St. Charles Fire Department reported that the Bourbon Street section, as well as the hotel's A, B, and E wings were destroyed. It's sobering to see such a beloved place, and one so historically significant to the pipe community, meet such a dismal end, and it all but solidified the fact that the Pheasant Run era of the Chicago Pipe Show has officially ended. There's still hope despite the ashes, though, and a new era has begun; even with Pheasant Run's close association with the Chicago Pipe Show, its decommissioning has not spelled the end of the show.
A New Era
This new era was inaugurated this year at the Marriott Resort in Lincolnshire, Illinois — the first Chicago Pipe Show since 2019. The venue boasted numerous amenities: two show floors, comfortable lodging, on-campus eateries as well as easy access to surrounding restaurants, and, of course, a spacious and well-ventilated smoking tent just outside. Specific comparisons between the Marriott and Pheasant Run locations are largely unproductive, but I think it's safe to say that, while certain Pheasant Run traditions are idiosyncrasies that will never be replicated, the Marriott provides the requisite luxuries and space to facilitate a successful pipe show with the potential to develop its own meaningful traditions and heartwarming memories.
The Chicago Pipe Show has always required immense sacrifice from those who organize its myriad moving parts, and this year's change of venue required even more diligent toil. Craig Cobine and Chuck Martin, Show Director and Assistant Show Director, as well as Tim Garrity, President of the CPCC, deserve praise in particular for the return of the Chicago Pipe Show and its subsequent success. As they've done for previous shows, Craig and Chuck worked tirelessly behind the scenes, helping to manage logistics and organizational minutia, and without them, the show would not have been possible. Tim played the part of host; it was as if hundreds of people had gathered to smoke in his living room. In the smoking tent, he passed by tables, emptying ashtrays and communing with attendees, and he also spoke with numerous long-time showgoers about what additions could help make future shows even better. He not only supervised a great pipe show, but he went beyond that to create an inviting atmosphere and make all feel welcome. Thanks to all CPCC members for their contributions toward making the return of the Chicago Pipe Show so successful.
Arlington Pipe and Cigar Lounge
Another welcome presence at this year's show was Arlington Pipe and Cigar Lounge, one of the premier tobacconists in the Chicago area and the official meeting place of the CPCC. The shop is managed by Chris Nichols, with assistance from in-store tobacconist Amu Torres, and it houses an expansive cigar selection as well as an impressive array of pipes and pipe tobaccos, including over 350 tinned blends, 50 bulk blends, and 300 pipes ranging from corn cobs to Peterson, Eltang, and Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation examples. If you're ever in the Chicago area and in need of a pipe-smoking oasis, Arlington Pipe and Cigar Lounge is where to go.
Arlington boasted numerous tables spread with pipes and tobacco on the show floor, and they also hosted a suite in the hotel, acting as a lounge with refreshments, music, and seating. Moreover, they partnered with Jeremy Reeves, Head Blender of Cornell & Diehl, to provide special, show-exclusive pipe tobacco blends available only through Arlington. Four distinctive mixtures comprised the Chicagoland 2022 selection: Mature Aromatic, Mature English, Mature Virginia, and Mature Virginia Perique, running the gamut of blend styles and catering to all preferences.
The show proper ran through Saturday and Sunday, May 28th and 29th; however, scheduled events began days before
- The smoking tent first opened and was available daily from 6am until midnight or later, replete with tables, chairs, and a cash bar.
- Pipe Making Seminar — With appearances from artisan pipe makers Jeff Gracik, Alex Florov, and Nanna Ivarsson, this presentation offered an introduction to the basics of crafting pipes.
- Tobacco Blending Seminar — Jeremy Reeves presented an overview of tobacco-blending processes with tips and advice for at-home mixtures.
- Smoke and Swap — This pre-show event allowed vendors to display pipes, vintage tobaccos, and other wares without procuring a table for the actual show on Saturday and Sunday.
- UPCA Fast Smoke Competition — The first event of its kind at the Chicago Pipe Show, this whimsical competition parodied iconic slow-smoke events, instead judging contestants on how fast they could smoke a bowl of tobacco in a corn cob without burning out the pipe.
- Welcome Dinner
- Pipedia Presentation — Pipedia founder and artisan pipe maker Scott Thile shared the uses and advantages of Pipedia, one of the most comprehensive resources on pipe makers and marques.
- Pipe Show — The first day of the show lasted from 9am to 5pm and consisted of two rooms, divided between artisan pipe makers and industry suppliers in one and retailers and vendors in the other.
- Chicago Feast — This special, ticketed dinner featured the Doctor and Master of Pipes awards. Due to the show's two-year hiatus, awards for 2020 and 2021 were presented as well as this year's. For more information on these accolades and their history, consult Chuck Stanion's previous article .
- Pipe Show — The second and final day of the show lasted again from 9am to 5pm.
- UPCA National Pipe Smoking Championship — Unlike the Fast Smoke Competition on Friday, this perennial tradition saw participants smoke pipes as slowly as possible without relights: Raymond Lykins won the men's section with a time of one hour and 10 minutes, and pipe maker Scottie Piersel won the women's section with a time of 50 minutes.
Future of the Chicago Pipe Show
When longstanding events are faced with change, they're often met with an understandable degree of hesitation. Few people enjoy adjusting to unfamiliar territory, and there's a natural fear of discomfort when managing expectations for the unknown. Thankfully, the joy of a pipe show is more dependent upon the people who attend and the deep relationships fostered between those who bond over a shared interest in pipes, tobaccos, and cigars than it is on a specific venue or particular, peripheral details.
That said, even though the Chicago Pipe Show 2022 changed venues, it still maintained a number of these non-essential traditions, from various seminars and smoking competitions to elegant dinners and customary awards. Most of all, though, the relational aspect was left unadulterated — if anything, it presented stronger considering the years of patience required between this show and the last. There were many who doubted the Chicago Pipe Show would ever return after 2019, and the subsequent relief was palpable at this show, manifesting itself in the deep, communal unity felt by those in attendance.
Compared to previous Chicago Pipe Shows, this year's was admittedly smaller. Much of that can be attributed to COVID-19 concerns as well as uncertainty regarding the new venue, but the success of the show bodes well for its future. As news spreads, more will be encouraged to attend in future years, returning the show to its prior renown. Most promising was that the atmosphere we love and expect from the Chicago Pipe Show was still present in spite of its changes: The show's essence remained. That aspect was exemplified by everyone's excitement and positive attitude. Those who were strangers just days before fraternized over recent pipe purchases; first-time attendees gaped in awe at the largest expanse of pipe and tobaccos they had ever encountered; long-time friends reunited after years of separation; and discerning collectors fawned over works of handmade art and vintage pieces of history.
One moment in particular for me encapsulates the promising future of the Chicago Pipe Show and the resilient, committed nature of our beloved community. During the first day of the show, one of the numerous people who stopped by the Smokingpipes table noted a certain pipe made by Nanna Ivarsson. "Wow! Look at this," he said, turning to his friend next to him. "This was made by Nanna Ivarsson — who was at the Pipe Making Seminar the other day. She carved a shape at the seminar just like this one. So cool!" It's this infectious and reciprocal excitement that makes the hobby, and pipe shows especially, so special, and those aspects aren't dictated by venues. A new era of the Chicago Pipe Show has begun, but it remains as significant and wonderful as ever.
- Kane County Chronicle
- ABC 7 Chicago
- Arlington Pipe and Cigar Lounge, CPCC
- 2022 Schedule of Events, CPCC