CLEVELAND — From the Cleveland Auto Show and Great Big Home to the Garden Show to Christmas Connection – these were yearly events we grew to love at the IX Center.
But all of them went dark after the decision was made to permanently close the Cleveland staple last September, after 35 years in business.
Now for the first time since abruptly shutting down, News 5 went back inside the IX Center.
A mad dash is underway there to get the massive main hall up and running ahead of the Christmas Connection, which is now just weeks away.
The huge venue, once so vibrant, has been sitting idle for nearly 600 days.
No cash, only cobwebs at the ATM on the floor at the IX Center.
The Piston Power Show, held in March of 2020, was the last event before the pandemic shut down the facility.
In order to bring holiday cheer and life back into the 2.2 million square foot facility, crews are working to bring the shuttered space back online.
Spectra Venue Management is leading the charge to re-open and staff the IX Center.
"It's an iconic venue," said Dave Anderson, Regional Vice President for Spectra.
With a nationwide labor shortage looming, like every other business, Spectra is adapting to get the first show off the ground.
"Right now, it's about putting a core team together to do the Christmas Connection event and kind of slowly build it out from there," said Anderson. He said Northeast Ohioans won't notice many changes right out of the gate.
However, dining options will be expanded with food trucks slated to be inside the venue.
"I think it's something that will be a staple there in one way or another," said Anderson.
Anderson said there's huge demand from local chefs wanting to take part.
"This is an opportunity to get in front of 5, 10, 15, 20,000 people," said Anderson.
With just a handful of weeks to prepare, the team behind the Christmas Connection decided to host what they're calling a limited-edition event.
"Which is about 250 exhibitors, which is about half of what they had in the past," said Rosanna Hradnicky with Marketplace Events.
Among those setting up shop will be Beth Faulkner.
"I missed it last year, it just wasn't the same," said Faulkner.
For the North Ridgeville artist who makes porcelain Christmas ornaments, Christmas Connection is just that – a chance to engage with her community.
"I've made friends from this show," said Faulkner.
As for expected turnout for IX Center's triumphant return?
Marketplace just wrapped up one of its 70 shows in Vancouver.
Despite there being some protocols in place, Hradnicky said attendance was only down slightly from pre-pandemic levels.
"People want to get out, they want to be a part of shows again," said Hradnicky.
Faulkner is ready to make up for lost time.
"The nicest Christmas present I could have gotten," said Faulkner. "Meeting all the people, having people admire your things, it's really a nice ego trip for me."
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