Combo Breaker in the Time of COVID-19

We thought this day would never come!

After a long wait of three years, Combo Breaker is back! Like everything that has taken place since the beginning of the pandemic, it looked a little different, but one of the most obvious differences wasn’t even pandemic-related…Combo Breaker has a new home at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center! (In related news, the now-defunct Pheasant Run Resort burned down the week before the event began, and there’s so much irony in there I can’t even start.)

So how was Combo Breaker different in the of COVID-19? It really wasn’t…vaccinations were required (you received a wristband to wear all weekend after you showed your proof of vaccination) and masks were mandatory at all times (except for when you were eating or drinking, of course…and I have to say, in general, compliance was excellent). Everything else felt familiar, though…the crowds, the games, the commentators, the artists, the fantastic energy on the floor. It was just all much bigger, because the space was enormous…even though the main stage screen was the same size as it has always been, it looked tiny compared to my memory of the event because the room was so huge!

For the first time, all seven of us Markels were able to volunteer at the event. Of course, Ryan always works, but Turkey drove up with him on Wednesday, and pitched in from Thursday-Saturday. The rest of us drove up a day later, and on Thursday and Saturday we helped fill thousands of registrant bags, and Ladybug even got to help run a bracket Friday night! There was something special about all of us being able to help out during the first event back after the pandemic, and even though most of us had to leave to come home before the Sunday night finals, I think this Combo Breaker will always have a special place in our hearts, because it just meant so much!

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