The Greatest (pipe) Show on Earth

Chicagoland Pipe Show 2010For about one week out of every year, Chicago, Illinois (actually, St. Charles) is home to the largest pipe smoking oriented event in the world- the Chicagoland Pipe Show, sponsored by the Chicagoland Pipe Collectors Club. This large, dedicated group of hobbyists turn Pheasant Run Resort into the center of the pipe world annually, and do it in a grand fashion.

Imagine your average Wal-Mart stripped bare and the furnishings replaced with over 300 banquet-type tables loaded with pipes, tobaccos and accessories. That is the Chicago show in the most raw form. Now add a tent with about 6000 square feet of floor space, a bar and hot buffet for relaxing, smoking and, most importantly, Let’s make it more interesting by having seminars on a variety of subjects, meetings of groups, hospitality suites, side trips for the significant others, dinners, a scaled-back pre-show, two days of the main show and a half-day post show for vendors to unload as much of their wares as possible before heading home. Even this description hardly does this gathering justice.

BlackHouse Pipe TobaccoLast year was especially nice for me as I was fortunate enough to be asked to enter the Balkan Sobranie 759 Throwdown, and was given the Judge’s Award, which helped to make BlackHouse one of our biggest successes to date, but there’s always something interesting going on. Learn more about all the events occurring during the 2012 Chicagoland Pipe Show here.

On the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the show, there’s usually a pipemaker’s seminar for those who are looking to expand their knowledge, and the smoking tent is up and running around the same time and will remain open until early Monday morning. Friday showcases the pre-show, where anyone who has the fortitude to be in line very early in the morning can get half a table free of charge to sell or display their wares or collections. The afternoon is chock-full of meetings and informational gatherings, and the evening is for socializing and reconnecting with friends.

Saturday and Sunday are the show days, and if you’ve never been to this event, it’s almost impossible not to be overwhelmed by the enormity. Most of the well-known pipe makers are there, as are most of the manufacturers handing out samples or offering deals on their goods. Saturday night is the dinner, and the tent will be filled with people smoking and yapping until the wee small hours, and Sunday morning is a great time to listen to all the stories about the dumb and hilarious things people did the night before.

Chicagoland Pipe Show 2009Sunday night, everyone goes into decompression mode, kicking back, relaxing and enjoying the company of some of the friendliest, funniest and most genuine people around; everyone, that is, except for the CPCC club members who will already be talking about what they’ll be able to do to make the 2013 show even better. For them, the work never ends, and I hope they know how much the pipe community appreciates it.

Monday morning finds a healthy handful of collectors and pipe makers at tables in the hallways trying to make those last few deals so they don’t have to transport their unsold wares back home. Some of the bargains that you’ll find on Monday are amazing, and it’s a nice time to have coffee and a Danish with pipe smoking buddies before heading home.

This year, we at are going to have something very special to introduce at the show. There will be four new tinned blends coming, and I guarantee that there will be a decent amount of “buzz” about them. I’m really pleased and excited about the rollout, and I can’t wait to get some feedback on them by attendees of the show. But I’m giving no further information on them, because a gentleman doesn’t smoke and tell.

About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at or by calling 1-800-494-9144.