Fair Saint Louis. Once it was known as the VP Fair. Then the organizers changed the name, tried rescheduling it later in the summer and quickly brought it back to the Fourth of July. Now, 24 years after the fair's inception, it's bigger and better than ever before. We have Ted Nugent, the Anheuser-Busch "Here's to the Heroes" Clydesdales Across America exhibit and the Purina Cat Chow Purrsonality Test. (If Mr. Night were a cat, he'd be a Scaredy Cat; Ms. Day would, of course, be The Lovah!) Fair Saint Louis is the 800-pound gorilla of all summer events: You can't mess with the fair, no matter what you call it or when you schedule it. If you don't take precautions, prepare yourself mentally and physically for the ordeal, and have some sort of plan, Fair Saint Louis will kick your America-loving, corn-dog-eating, fireworks-aaah-ing ass. Guaranteed.
But you knew that, didn't you? Oh, you're new at this? You've never had the pleasure of slowly broiling to death under the cruel July sun while waiting for the fireworks? Brother, this is your lucky day. Here's a survival list, compiled by Fair Saint Louis veterans Mr. Night and Ms. Day. Godspeed, little Yankee Doodles.
1) If you're driving downtown, leave now. Seriously. It seems that every street east of Tucker Boulevard is blocked to traffic. Do you want to sit in the car with three kids and a gassy dog (really, who gave Dr. Barkapotomus the corn dog? Was that you, Finkel?), driving aimlessly in search of an open street or an open parking space while listening to your air conditioner die a slow, wheezing death? No. Leave early. Or better yet, take MetroLink, and leave your car at home.
2) Dress for the weather. Ms. Day wore jeans one year so as to avoid mosquito bites. "It was like being in a heat sandwich," she laments. Heat sandwich? O-kay. Think shorts, tank tops, brimmed hats and tennis shoes. "You don't want to be the jackass in heels walking one million blocks to the festivities," Ms. Day cautions.
3) Drink lots of beverages. Now, while that may sound like an open offer to keep the beer flowing like wine, alcohol dehydrates you and sends you first to the potty lines -- and eventually to the heat stroke tent. It's not really called the "heat stroke tent," but that's what it is. Hundreds of lobster-hued hoosiers pass out at the fair every year; Mr. Night has stepped over more than a few prostrate beer-guzzlers on his way to the front of the funnel cake line. Eventually, he joins them in the heat stroke tent, but much later in day two.
4) Eat fried Twinkies wherever and whenever you can find them.
5) If you can sneak up on top of one of the many buildings to get a better view of the fireworks, by all means, do it. Hotels sometimes issue wristbands to guests to insure non-guests can't sneak in. Look for these wristbands in the heat stroke tent, and liberate them at your discretion. After all, unconscious hoosiers can't see the fireworks anyway, so they'll never know what they're missing.