Those attending included:
We arrived to this event a day early, to enjoy the sites and sounds of Chicago. The event was held at the Hyatt regency McCormick Place. On our first night in the hotel, we stopped at the bar for their mini sandwiches, we seems to have become our annual tradition at the Windy City.
The following morning, most of our gang woke up for a pre competition workout on the hotel gym, followed by breakfast at the nearby 11th City Diner, which has now become my favorite dining spot in Chicago.
After breakfast, we checked in with the event staff and received some fabulous welcome gifts for everyone attending. The girls had the whole afternoon to prepare and had their make-up done by "obviously fabulous".
Rhythm freestyles kicked off in the evening, and everyone danced well in the first competitive session. As the event began, I did feel that it was smaller than years past. There were a lot of out of town dancers present, like us, but many of the local Chicago dancers were noticeably absent. I was surprised that Fred Astaire Chicago did not bring their normal troop of glamorous pro/am ladies, as we have grown so accustomed to meeting. Also noticeably absent from Windy City were Gregory Day and Natasha Issacs, and we missed seeing them.
As for our gang, we had several newcomers join us this year. For Michael and Judy Abalarelli, this was there very first dance event, ever. They were both entered as newcomers. We could tell that they were nervous, as most newcomers are, but you couldn't notice that on the dance floor. Judy had a fabulous gown from Julie Wilson's Encore, and definitely looked the part as an established dancer. Both Michael and Judy made placements in their contested divisions.
Doug Drob and Bettina Camcigil were also entered Windy City, and this event in particular was very meaningful to them. They were both signed up to dance at The Windy City last year, when Bettina learned she had breast cancer. Bettina' s battle with cancer prevented them from attending last year. We are very thankful to the Windy City event staff, as they were very supportive to Bettina during her treatment and recovery.
This year's return to the Windy city was a meaningful one, as it was symbolic of Bettina's recovery from cancer, and their return to dancing. They hit the floor after only a few weeks to prepare, and did a terrific job.
Sophia D'Angelo had a fantastic evening as well, and placed first in her Rhythm Scholarship. The Windy City Open marked Sophia's one year anniversary in competitive dancing. At this time last year, we entered her in Windy City as her first (ever) ballroom dance competition.
The following sessions all went well. Smooth was held as a morning session this year. The music during the smooth session was exceptional. We heard several beautiful Italian Waltzes, including Sene Fina (spelling?). It's a hauntingly beautiful waltz that I remember from the (creepy) movie "Ghost Ship". We heard it played several times during freestlyes in the smooth session.
Between all the dancing, Roxi and I competed in the Professional Rising Star smooth division. We are still dancing for experience and our goal was survival/to have fun. We expected to be eliminated in the semi-final, and we were. It was nice to hear later, that our dancing had improved. We got a lot of positive feedback. After dancing, we were somewhat relieved when we're were allowed to rejoin our studio table to watch the final.
After several days of excitement and dancing, the Windy City Open wrapped up this year with its Grand Banquet and professional show. The Grand Banquet was (again) a disappointment this year. I think it may be the only part of this event that needs serious improvement, otherwise everything at the Windy City went rather smoothly.
After the event was over, the gang spent the day on Sunday in Chicago, and made a return to the Navy Pier for our annual ferris wheel ride.