Welcome to the forum, Chris! You're going to love it here. I'm an as-yet hiveless newbie (will start next spring), but have been hanging around here since June and learned a ton. The search function is excellent for finding older posts on any topic and the responses to my questions have been answered quickly and thoroghly.
Where in Chi-Town are you? I live in Skokie. Have you met the Windy City Beekeepers or the bee folks at Garfield Park Conservatory? Also, it's a long drive, but the Cook-DuPage Beekeepers Association meetings look like they are good opportunities to learn and meet area beekeepers. I attended the September meeting, but it was mostly election of new officers, and this month's meeting is their annual banquet. I'll probably attend the November meeting.
Feel free to contact me privately and I can share some more sources of local bee info.