The Bears Expo occurs every year and is an excellent way for fans to meet the players, check out the locker rooms, and walk on the field. Last year the event was for two days over a weekend; however, this year the event only lasted for one. This required fans to pick and choose the activities they could fit into one day. In this article, I will advise what was available, what I chose to attend, and my experience.
The gates opened at 9:30 a.m. and the first 4,000 fans to enter received a scratch-off card that reserved a spot for an autograph session. My family and I arrived two hours early to ensure that we received a scratch-off card. This year’s scheduled scratch-off autographs included: Doug Buffone, Richard Dent, Gale Sayers, Corey Graham, Keith Van Horne, Chris Williams, Alex Brown, Brian Urlacher, Nathan Vasher, Steve McMichael, Tommie Harris, Kevin Payne, Tom Thayer, Matt Forte and Orlando Pace (combo), Matt Suhey and Emery Moorehead (combo), Jay Hilgenberg, Lovie Smith, Jay Cutler and Greg Olsen (combo), and Jerry Azumah and Marcus Robinson (combo). When we received our scratch-offs, they were ALL for Doug Buffone. Thankfully, there is a trading post. We, like most other people there, were desperate for an Urlacher card and would have also liked a Cutler one. It took a while, but we ended up with the following: Richard Dent, Keith Van Horne, Brian Urlacher, Lovie Smith, Kevin Payne, and Tommie Harris. Keith Van Horne did not show up and was replaced by Ruben Brown. Kevin Payne was about 30 minutes late and Tommie Harris was an hour late. They were both apologetic and ALL of them were polite.
In addition to the scratch-offs, autograph tables were scheduled for the following: Cody Balogh, Ed Sprinkle, Earl Bennett, Glen Kozlowski, Israel Idonije, Jarron Gilbert, Kevin Malest, Rashied Davis, Derek Kinder, Joe Clermond, Marcus Harrison, Nick Roach, Jim Morrissey, Rudy Burgess, Caleb Hanie, Johnny Knox, Johan Asiata, Anthony Adams, Jamaar Williams, Dahna Deleston, Ruben Brown, Patrick Mannlley, Zach Bowman, Marcus Hamilton, Trumaine McBride, D.J. Moore, Kevin Jones, Kellen Davis, Brad Maynard, Revie Sorey, Craig Steltz, Joey LaRocque, Jason Davis, Matt Toeina, Josh Bullocks, Allan Ellis, Lance Louis, Ronnie Bull, Fontel Mines, Frank Omlyale, Brett Basanez, Marcus Freeman, Erwin Baldwin, Dahna Deleston, Mike Rivera, and Brandon Rideau. Unfortunately, two players were not available due to filling in for scratch-off players: Ruben Brown for Keith Van Horne and Jarron Gilbert for Chris Williams. There was also a “kids only” autograph session, where Garrett Wolf was the surprise guest.
There was a variety of activities and seminars that fans could participate in or attend throughout the day. Seminars included: “Meet the Coaches,” “History of the Bears,” “Bears Q & A,” “Football Tales with Bears Alumni,” “Meet the Rookies,” and “Game Time Equipment.” On the field activities included: Football Drills, Field Photos, Field Goal Challenge, and a Gatorade Interactive Area for kids. Fans were also given a tour of the locker room. Last year we were able to participate in the field activities, but there was not enough time this year. We did attend the Game Time Equipment seminar provided by Coach Lovie Smith, Tommie Harris and Israel Idonije. Tommie was hilarious. Coach Smith asked Tommie to explain what happens after they get suited up for practice, lift weights, and go to their meetings. Tommie’s response, “we go to our meetings and we’re all sweaty, then we go to eat and we are still in our sweaty clothes.” He was great.
Another highlight of the day was Bingo. They offered two sessions where you could win a variety of prizes. We won a sports bag that included two baseball caps, a banner, and an official football signed by Muhsin Muhammad. Last year we won four tickets to the Science Museum and a Bear’s sideline shirt. In between the bingo sessions, the Chicago Bears Drumline performed.
Walter Payton’s family was also available for book signings. We met them at last year’s expo and had our picture taken with them. His wife and daughter are very sweet. It would have been nice to have the time to see them again, but time did not permit.
Our day ended with a walk down Vendor Row where we purchased a framed autographed picture of Devin Hester. All in all, we had a wonderful time and will definitely attend again next year.