Touted as the largest U.S.-based assemblage of ceramic and stone tiles and their respective accessories, products, and equipment, Coverings 2007 and Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center are eager to host more than 33,000 domestic and international visitors April 17-20.

With more than 75 free educational seminars and demonstrations lined-up over the four-day event, all of which are eligible for ASID credits and many earning AIA continuing education credits, the show’s appeal extends to many. As an incentive, show organizers are allowing architectural and design professionals to bring VIP clients with them, free of charge. Up to two guests during the four-day run can be hosted.

Drawing attention to the global creativity and manufacturing processes of tile and stone products, Coverings’ will also showcase several countries within pavilions, including Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

But Coverings is not only a feast for the eyes, it’s also a platform for abundant educational opportunities – and this year, it’s free. Keynoter Bernard M. Markstein, III, director of forecasting and assistant staff and vp for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), kicks offs the lecture series with the NAHB’s economic forecast, while Richard Meier, renowned architect of The Getty Center in Los Angeles, Calif., and Pritzker Prize for Architecture honoree, is set to cap it off.

Additional noteworthy presenters include: Leatrice Eiseman of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training/Pantone Color Institute; author Heather E. Adams, founder and co-owner of Florida Natural Stone Design; consultant, speaker and author Charles Vander Kooi; designer Nancy Epstein, founder and CEO of Artistic Tile; Jonathan Trivers of Marketing Wit and Wisdom; and consultant Patti Fasan of Professional Attention to Tile Installation.

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) are sponsoring a series of hour-long installation demonstration workshops. These “how-to” classes offer an up-close look at how contracting pros handle challenging tile installations. Topics for the demos include: “Floor and Wall Preparation”; “Proper Layout”; “Thin-set Mixing and Application Procedures”; “Thin-set Tile Application”; “Cement Grouting”; “Epoxy Grouting”; and “Expansion Joints.”

If education can’t be squeezed into your busy agenda, then perhaps riding off on a new 2007 Harley-Davidson FLSTF Fat Boy can be accommodated. The motorcycle giveaway is just one of many “special events” organizers have planned for the show.

The 2007 Spectrum & Prism Awards Competition, to be presented during the show’s opening ceremony, recognizes architects, designers, builders, contractors, distributors, retailers, installers and other professionals whose projects demonstrate creativity and achievement in the use of ceramic tile and natural stone in residential and commercial projects. Sponsored by several organizations, including ASCER (Spain’s Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association), Ceramic Tile Distributors of America (CTDA), NTCA, TCNA, and Confindustria Ceramica (Italian Association of Ceramics), the Grand Prize winner of The Spectrum Award (tile use in Architecture) will be awarded $10,000. Similarly, The Prism Award (stone use in architecture), sponsored by Architectural Record, will also reward its grand prize entrant with $10,000.

After three days of learning and sourcing, Coverings’ organizers are hosting Appreciation Night Thursday, April 19, at Chicago’s House of Blues. The event, sponsored by the TCNA, Tile of Spain and TurkishCeramics organizations, is complimentary to those who show their Coverings’ badge at the door.

For more information, or to register, call (212) 966-3759 or visit www.coverings.com.