Why does arriving in Chicago for the NRA show always feel a little like coming home? Well, for 70,000+ attendees and exhibitors, it is home for the next few days.

Team QSR flew into Chicago mid-morning Friday, and as we descended through the clouds into a beautiful, sunny day, the heart of downtown Chicago was just off to the right of our plane, set in bright contrast against the vast expanse of Lake Michigan. Looking a bit to the right of downtown, we could see Soldier Field, its recent refurbishment now making it look like a UFO has been planted firmly on top. And just beyond Soldier Field, there it was.

McCormick Place. Home for the next few days.

A couple of hours after we landed, we were in McCormick to set up the QSR booth. If you’ve never been in a tradeshow during set-up, it’s impossible to believe the utter chaos will ever be whipped into shape on time. Indeed, it will be 6:00AM Saturday morning—opening day of the show—before the last of the clean-up is done.

Of course, everything came together wonderfully. When the doors opened to attendees at 9:00 this morning, 2,000+ exhibits, ranging from the somewhat humble to the incredibly elaborate, were waiting. Quite frankly, it’s overwhelming until you get a feel for the place.

Which is where the story of NRA 2005 begins. Stay tuned for more.