FRI 5/6

The biggest story of the canceled NHL season is how little a story it turned out to be, at least for the casual fan. Sure, those February nights lacked a certain something, but all in all it's been nice to have one less thing to worry about, one less drain on our fickle passions. But for the face-painting, chest-pounding mob of puck die-hards (and the sports-bar owners who love them), '04 to '05 has been the longest winter in living memory. Reality has thrown a brutal bodycheck, knocking out emotional teeth and turning hearts as cold as the hallowed ice. And it's only getting harder as we move into the would-be playoff season. Where have all the five-holes gone?

For those nutcases who weren't satisfied with the Missouri River Otters, a bittersweet sample of what could have been: the Professional Hockey Stars Charity Face-Off at the Family Arena (2002 Arena Parkway, St. Charles). When the puck drops at 7:30 p.m., the likes of Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk and Rob Blake glide and bludgeon and score once again. For three short hours, the clouds of hockey despair part to let the game's poetic brilliance shine anew. Tickets range from $12 to $77, and proceeds benefit a hat trick of worthy causes: the Mike Shanahan Blues Alumni Scholarship, the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University and the Blues' own Fourteen Fund, which honors ex-Blue and cancer casualty Doug Wickenheiser (the name comes from Wickenheiser's number). Call 636-896-4242 or see for information; go to for tickets.-- Jason Toon

Alpaca Meet-and-Greet

SAT 5/7

If there's anything that's worth taking a two-hour Saturday drive for, it's the most sweet and precious member of the camel family, the alpaca. With their soft fur and forgiving eyes, alpacas are celebrated at the fourth annual Spring Alpaca Festival at Starlight Ranch (55105 Buffalo Lane, New London, Missouri -- near Hannibal). This free event, which requires reservations (417-887-1245), features alpaca seminars, hot dogs and other food, the banjo-playing L.A. Suess, and more than 75 alpacas, all ready to be hugged. So, OK, you probably shouldn't hug the alpacas, but you can pet their awesome afros. The festivalpaca runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; visit for more information. -- Alison Sieloff

Fair Mom

Every year around Mother's Day, thousands of desperate sons, daughters and fathers hit the malls and yard sales, panic-stricken, to search for that perfect something for Mom. And every year over Mother's Day weekend, Laumeier Sculpture Park (12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-821-1209 or hosts its annual art fair. Coincidence? We think not. More than 100 artists working in paint, photography, jewelry (such as Angie Price's earrings, pictured), clay and other media showcase their best goods outdoors in beautiful (we hope) weather. Marketing aside, it's a great way to duck yard work, weekend television or uncomfortable family silences on Mother's Day. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children (ages six to eleven), and the fair is open from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p. m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday (May 6 through 8). -- Jedidiah Ayres

Pole Position

SAT 5/7

Like playing croquet, the tradition of the Maypole is something most Americans vaguely recognize as an antiquated, western-European thing that we don't really understand. The kids of Carman Trails Elementary School (555 South Weidman Road, Manchester; 314-415-6100) will enlighten you during their free Outdoor May Day Dance from 1 to 3 p.m. when they dance around the Maypole. But here's a quick primer: The Maypole is associated with -- what else? -- ancient pagan fertility rituals traditionally performed at the dawn of spring. This is where we'd typically enter a pagan pole-dancing joke, but frankly we're too pure in mind and spirit during this time of renewal to spoil it. -- Kristie McClanahan

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