By Carol Cain
Senior Producer and Host
WWJ-TV CBS Detroit’s “Michigan Matters”
As president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Club, where every modern U.S. president and CEOs from across the globe have appeared, Beth Chappell is used to high-profile, fast-paced action. But even she was surprised at events that unfolded this week at the North American International Auto Show.
Chappell and Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which puts on the NAIAS, had just wrapped up a luncheon gathering at Cobo on Tuesday featuring the Big Four political leaders (it is the fourth year the two organizations teamed up to put on the sold out event) when she got the ride of a lifetime.
The WWJ-TV CBS Detroit team was also there as I moderated the conversation and we taped it for viewers to see Sunday as a “Michigan Matters” exclusive at 11 a.m.
Not long after Chappell, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, and myself left the stage, Alberts approached. “He asked if I had a few minutes,” said Chappell. Alberts then asked me the same.
He invited us to ride along with Miss Michigan 2012 Kristen Danyal that afternoon in an incredible car being featured in the twice-a-day parade through Cobo Center. “It was such a surprise and so much fun to ride in that red Corvette right in the middle of the auto show!” said Chappell.
The parade featuring dignitaries and celebrities was the brainchild of Alberts and Tony Michaels, CEO of The Parade Company, which puts on America’s Thanksgiving Parade. “Tony and I were talking about ways we might team up and it was like a lightning bolt – ‘What if we did a parade in the middle of the auto show?’” said Alberts, who is on The Parade Company’s board. It also grew out of The Gallery, which opens the NAIAS and features expensive high end luxury vehicles that always draw ohhs and ahhs. The parade – which was added to this year’s public show for the first time — features a glitzy Corvette, Bentley Continental GTC and Aston Martin Vantage.
It took planning and logistical work to carve out the 1/8 mile track inside Cobo (it starts near the Cadillac exhibit and weaves around). It has been a crowd pleaser, held daily at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Besides Chappell and Miss Michigan, other celebrities and dignitaries have appeared, including boxing legend Tommy Hearns.
Like Chappell, I was stunned to go from moderating a fast-moving conversation with the Big Four to being in the middle of a parade! It was so much fun sitting in the passenger seat of that gorgeous $225,000 Bentley Continental GTC and waving at the families on the parade route.
The parade also features clowns, paper mache heads and other artifacts that appear in America’s Thanksgiving Parade. “We are not quite the Thanksgiving Day Parade by any means, but it’s warmer inside at Cobo,” said Alberts. “More important, it brings a smile to every little kid and big kids like us who sees it coming down aisle. And there’s no other auto show in the world that has a parade!”
The NAIAS show continues through Sunday, Jan. 22
For tickets phone 248-283-5173
Get full details in our Guide To The Auto Show.
Carol Cain is the Emmy winning Senior Producer and Host of WWJ-TV CBS Detroit’s “Michigan Matters” which airs 11 a.m. Sundays. She writes a column in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press on business and politics. You can reach her at 248-355-7126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.