As It Happens

This journalist and her friends took a day off in Chicago — Ferris Bueller style

Journalist Leigh Giangreco chronicles a Saturday spent tackling what might seem to be the impossible: taking a day off a la Ferris Bueller.

Leigh Giangreco and her pals retraced all the adventures from the 1986 movie

From left to right, Leigh Giangreco, Alyssa Edes and Vasilios Niphoratos re-create the iconic shot from Ferris Bueller's Day Off at the the top of the Sears Tower, which is now the Willis Tower. (Leigh Giangreco/The Washington Post)

Ferris Bueller is a wise-cracking, fast-moving, wily teen whose adventure in Ferris Bueller's Day Off proves that you can see the best of Chicago in one day. 

But the magic of the 1986 film had Chicago journalist Leigh Giangreco ask herself: Could it really be done? 

In a piece published in the Washington Post this month, Giangreco documents the Saturday she spent with friends walking in Bueller's shoes — literally.

"I did walk in his shoes, and his vest too. My friends and I all dressed up like the characters," she told As It Happens host Nil Köksal. 

"I think doing all those activities in one day really makes you feel like a kid, and also you just learn to appreciate the city so much more." 

'No challenge is insurmountable'

It's a fast moving day, especially considering the multitude of escapades Ferris dispatches in the one-hour-and-38-minute film, before he literally runs home at 6 p.m. 

The film sees Ferris, his girlfriend Sloane and his best friend Cameron visit the Sears Tower, a Cubs' game and the Von Steuben Day parade among other things. 

Some attractions weren't available or simply didn't exist outside the film's scope.

Three people stand side by side, arms folded in front of their chests, in front of a painting hanging on the wall.
Niphoratos, Edes and 12-year-old Indiana resident, Dax Durbin — who was also, coincidentally, recreating Ferris Bueller's Day Off — at the Art Institute of Chicago. (Leigh Giangreco/The Washington Post)

Chez Quis, where Bueller snags a reservation belonging to Abe Froman, "The Sausage King of Chicago," is pure fiction. And the floor at the stock exchange where the gang visits is no longer open to the public. 

The group didn't get in their way. As Giangreco wrote: "If you're going to think like Ferris, though, you have to believe that no challenge is insurmountable."

Turns out the itinerary was mostly possible to complete, plus a few caveats. 

Mapping out the day 

Becoming Ferris Bueller in the span of a single school day presented its challenges, chronologically. 

"I did tweak the timeline a little bit," Giangreco said,

In the film, Bueller and his antics are all over the map. While the group attends a Cubs' game, dances to Twist and Shout at the parade, then observes some Picassos at the Art Institute of Chicago — in that order — the timeline didn't add up to Giangreco. So she shuffled the itinerary around in accordance with geographical convenience. 

A man in a red and white jersey rests on a brick wall overlooking the ocean while a woman in a fringed jacket touches his head. A woman in a black leather jacket sits on the back of bench in front of them, looking over her shoulder.
Niphoratos, Edes and Giangreco at Glencoe Beach. (Leigh Giangreco/The Washington Post)

"It didn't make sense to go from downtown, back to the Cubs' stadium, which is nowhere near downtown," she said. "When people watch the movie, they probably think Wrigley Field is downtown but it's not at all; it's in a different neighbourhood." 

'One of the best days of my life' 

As for finding a Cubs' game playing on a Saturday, Giangreco didn't think she'd run into any debacles. But she never dreamed that the same parade from the film would be happening on the day of her project. 

The Steuben Parade, which takes place annually in a local German neighbourhood, is a real procession in all its glory. 

"It's featured in the film, but the film takes place in the spring. In real life, the parade takes place in September," she said. 

When parade-goers recognized the group dressed like Ferris Bueller and the gang, they were more than willing to allow Giangreco and her friends to hop on a float. Then they played Twist and Shout twice. 

"It's pretty lowkey, so it's kind of easy to get on a float," Giangreco said.

When it was all over, Giangreco and her friends did not race through her neighborhood in a mad dash to make it home, or jump into a neighbour's hot tub. 

"We did get to Cameron's house, which is real, at 5:55 [p.m.] So I don't think Ferris would've had time to run back home and get there by 6 and be in bed," she said. 

Despite research, consultations with Google Maps and doubting the amount of time the day graced her with, Giangreco describes the exploit as "one of the best days of [her] life." 

"I still think I managed to appreciate the day, and stop and look around for a minute," she said. "Doing all those activities in one day really makes you feel like a kid."

Interview with Leigh Giangreco produced by Chris Trowbridge.

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