The first time you go to the Chicago Pipes Show, you cannot avoid seeing a group of older people unendingly moving through the Pheasant Resort looking like the have something urgent to do. Who are they? – you ask yourself. Exhibitors? Collectors? Keen visitors?

foto di gruppo

No clue helps you to understand at first, then you find out they know everyone, are really kind and often stop to talk along the aisles. And they are Americans. A sort of tiredness reveals from their faces, but their eyes glow with a light that only enthusiasm is able to create. Later, while queuing up to pay the table for your exposition, you see some of them beyond the reception desk breathlessly working on counts to be made and distributing smiles and numbered envelopes. At that point you understand: that’s who they are, those people of CPCC, the Chicagoland Pipe Collector Club, the mythical group of men and women able to transform their meetings of fond of pipes friends into the most attended pipes show in the world. It took them over twenty years, but the St. Charles show has now no rivals.

How did they do? How is it they didn’t get tired at one time? What lucky alchemy has enabled such a success?

After two participations, I have got my own idea. I believe the ingredients of this success are the disinterested passion of the CPCC members, an organizing philosophy that perfectly suits the “psychological type” of the pipemaker as well as of the smoker and, lastly, an atmosphere of joy and light- heartedness permeating every moment of the show and favoring the pleasure to know each other and share experiences.

But why no other show has got the same success? What’s different in the others?

Although I have entered the pipemakers’ world only a few years ago, I have already taken part to several shows around the world. Some of them are professional shows, where no sale is allowed but just a contact with buyers. In others the meeting between pipemakers and dealers is strictly regulated by the organizers’ economic interests. In some others you can go only through invitation, and so on.

Therefore we must admit that no one has the characteristics of St Charles Show. Only here there is a total freedom in participation, the warranty that dealers and pipemakers are going to meet without any limitation and… granted fun. that’s because, during the years, practices favoring relations in a joyful, informal atmosphere have consolidated, like the two days’ workshop for apprentices, the pre-show in a tent or the exhibition of your own pipes in your hotel room. Yes, because in St Charles a simple notice on the hall information board with your room number and opening time is enough. It’s this simple, gorgeous idea that gives way to the coming and going from the rooms until late at night. Could there be a better occasion to see the work of others, know them personally while chatting a little and laugh together while drinking something? And then there is the after-show. On the Monday morning, who wants, can display what hasn’t been sold on the few tables made available by the bar near the hall. They display their pipes in the last attempt to attract an uncertain buyer, the little stands among the tables of other pipemakers having their last breakfast before they leave to their own countries, still sleeping faces and luggage already in the hall, waiting for a cab that will drive them to Chicago O’Hare International airport.

Really, with the Chicago Pipes Show is the same as with a good tasting dish: you are sorry when it’s over and would like to eat more. So you cannot help but return the following year. This year the 300 tables made available for CPCC weren’t enough; it is a problem the Club had to face many times in the show history because the success of the event, leavening the number of participants, has already imposed several location changes. If you haven’t done it yet, visit the web and Facebook pages of CPCC. On the site you will find a brief history of the Club written by Frank Burla.

This very year, while I was smoking a cigarette outdoors, growing numb because of the cold wind combined with a tiny drizzle, a man with a nice white streaked beard came out from the hotel and towards me. I had seen that man before, of course, but I didn’t know he was Frank. He introduced himself, asked me if I was there for the show, what my name was and where did I come from. He said something nice in Italian and greeted me heartily. A real gentleman that all of us should thank for giving us a picture of the CPCC history, a precious tale of a unique experience, fixed now and forever in that immense library that is the internet.