Picture this: It's the weekend, maybe Saturday, maybe Sunday. You sleep in for a bit, and awake to a sunny summer day, a gentle wind blowing just enough to move the leaves. You throw on something comfortable, point your car or bike in the direction of Tower Grove Park (4256 Magnolia Avenue) and find a spot to park. As you stroll to the International Institute of St. Louis' Festival of Nations site (www.festivalofnationsstl.org), open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday (August 27 and 28), you hear the faint sounds of music, punctuated by drumming, and you smell a melange of spices and other fare delivered on a breeze. Once at the fest, you hit up the booth featuring Bosnian eats, purchasing an order of cevapi, and then you buy a fresh watermelon juice from a Mexico-themed stand. As you grab a seat on the grass and munch on the well-spiced sausage and pita and suck down the fruit juice, you survey the scene: There are families with kids and dogs, single individuals, groups of young people and folks of all ages, all trying new foods and truly enjoying the festivities. After you finish your meal, you head over to the booths selling everything from jewelry to clothing, and from leather goods to home decor items. You make a couple of purchases and then walk to the main stage for some entertainment. Maybe you're lucky enough to catch the African dancers or the Cobu group and its mix of Taiko drumming and tap dancing. Whatever the performance, you're no less than impressed, and as you walk to your car, you have to remind yourself that you're still in St. Louis and that all of these people, who hail from all walks of life and from all over the world, are your neighbors -- and friends. You vow to continue the welcoming vibe throughout the year, even when the festival weekend is but a distant memory.
Sat., Aug. 27; Sun., Aug. 28, 2011