Where Were You When…


If you’ve been in the toy business for any real length of time and have been blessed with any kind of success, then you undoubtedly have experienced moments when place and circumstance are etched in your mind because something big happened. These are “Where were you when…” moments. 

The Chicago Toy and Game Events, or CHITAG as they collectively are known, seem to foster such moments. The first two days hold a conference of panels and presentations designed with toy and game inventors in mind. In the middle of the events, Toy Nation gets decked out for an evening to honor its own with Toy and Game Inventor Awards. Finally the last two days are devoted to the CHITAG Fair. This is a trade show at Chicago’s Navy Pier, not for wholesale buyers, but for the consuming public who can discover, play and buy the hottest new games and toys. This unique, “three-events-in-one” playfest has an energy all its own.

Where were you when… your career turned on a deal?

Game designer Arne Lauwers was at CHITAG in 2006 when Mike Hirtle, Head of Global Product Acquisition for Hasbro, played his game, Project X. Mike liked it and decided to bring it into Hasbro for licensing consideration. Today Project X is Pictureka, one of Hasbro’s hottest selling games.  

Where were you when… your next big thing took off?

I was at CHITAG in 2009 when I struck a deal with Roger Gehrke, Director of Business Development for Martinex, a Scandinavian game and puzzle company. Now our TriBond game will be distributed throughout Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. 

Bob Knight, president of Find It Games, was at CHITAG in 2008 when he discovered a game being exhibited called Muckin’ Around. He licensed it from the inventor, updated it, and now Celtic Challenge is in Barnes & Noble stores nationally. 

Where were you when… you realized you were a part of a fellowship within our unique industry?

Isabella Miller, 9 and Madison Yang, 8 were at CHITAG in 2009 when they won the Young Inventor Challenge, an event sponsored by Hasbro and supported by the Toy Industry Association and Bruce Lund of Lund and Company. Isabella and Madison witnessed first-hand the generosity of industry professionals willing to take the time to be mentors.

Over 200 people were there in 2009 at the Toy and Game Inventor Awards, when Reuben Klamer gave his heartfelt speech in acceptance of the TAGI Lifetime Achievement Award. His speech was witty, historic and clearly for Reuben, emotional. It was a crowning achievement for the man who invented the Game of Life. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

As the Toy and Game Inventor Conference and the Toy and Game Inventor Awards grow, along with the CHITAG Fair, significant companies and prominent people within the toy industry see the future. After 8 years, CHITAG keeps getting better. With Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley on board as the Honorary Chair of the TAGI Awards, CHITAG is becoming the place to be.

Memories, moments and yes, money are being made in Chicago. Where will you be when it happens? 

Tim Walsh is on the board of directors for the Chicago Toy and Game Group. The Toy and Game Inventor Conference is held Nov. 18-19th. The Toy and Game Inventor Awards takes place on the evening of Nov. 19th, and the Chicago Toy and Game Fair will be at Navy Pier on Nov. 20 and 21st.


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