The largest gathering ever of Chicago Bears, some emerging from years of hibernation, will be in attendance Friday-Sunday at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont for Bears100, celebrating the charter franchise’s centennial season.
From Hall of Famers, such as Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers and Mike Ditka, to members of the 1985 and 2006 Super Bowl squads to the complete reigning NFC North championship team, more than 200 former and current Bears players and coaches will converge for what’s being billed as a once-in-a-lifetime event.
The activities kick off Friday evening with an opening ceremony including the Hall of Famers and unveiling of a new classic Bears jersey that the club will don this season. Particularly notable will be the presence at the opening ceremony only of Sayers, one of the franchise’s biggest legends, whose appearances have decreased in recent years as he battles dementia.
The weekend also includes 15 panels, from 1963 and 1965 “Legacy” panels and Mama Bear Virginia McCaskey and chairman George joining Hall of Fame writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson to a leadership panel led by Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace and Ted Phillips and several positional panels, including legendary linebackers Brian Urlacher and Mike Singletary to quarterbacks, led by Mitch Trubisky and Jim McMahon.
There will be opportunities for fans to get autographs and pictures taken with some of their favorite players, interactive games and activities for children, and a walk-through Bears history zone.
As many neat features as are planned for fans, the players of past and present say they share in the excitement to connect, reconnect and celebrate the organization’s great heritage.
“Just being able to be around the guys,” Kyle Long, currently the Bears’ longest-tenured homegrown player, said Wednesday in anticipation of the event. “These are historical figures. These are the guys on the wall [at Halas Hall] we pass every day — Bears Hall of Famers, retired numbers. It’s going to be a great opportunity to pick their brains and have an appreciation for the history and legacy that was built here.”
Nagy, whose Bears got an early taste of what’s in store for the weekend Tuesday via a surprise visit by Butkus to present his eponymous award to Khalil Mack, paid homage to his QB background, saying he’s excited to visit with the “punky QB” Jim McMahon, among many others.
“I’m looking forward to all of them,” he said. “They’re all great people and players. The players and people that I have not met yet — and I haven’t talked to [McMahon] yet. There’ll be others, too. I’m really looking forward to us all being together, telling a bunch of stories.”
Few will have better stories to tell than Hampton, one of seven Hall of Famers in attendance.
“Once upon a time, there were three Bears. Now there are 100 years of them,” Hampton told PFW. “It’s truly incredible to be a part of the history, the footing and the foundation of the NFL with the Chicago Bears. My 40 years has flown by, but from Halas to Mack, the hits just keep on coming.”
To purchase tickets and get additional information, including the full list of panelists and honorary guests, the Bears encourage fans to visit chicagobears.com/celebrationweekend.