Emperor Tomato Catsup

The spicy monarch

SUN 7/11

The people of Collinsville, Illinois, take their ketchup very seriously. They don't even call it "ketchup," preferring instead the more Continental "catsup." They also venerate the World's Largest Catsup Bottle, which happens to be the old Brooks Catsup water tower that stands guard over the town. Rising into the sky like an avenging condiment, the mighty Bottle warns all outsiders that C-ville ain't no mustard town: Catsup is King, and you had best pay homage, or be ground into a tangy, red paste.

To celebrate the Catsup Bottle's birthday, between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. East Main Street at Morris Avenue (call 618-345-5598 or visit www.catsupbottlesummerfest.com for info) is transformed into a party ground where classic-car clubs congregate, hula-hoop contests break out, citizens play spin-the-bottle, and a massive Tangy Catsup Taste Test will determine which is the greatest of all catsups. New this year is the Little Tomato Princess and Little Sir Catsup Contest, a pageant for kids ages three to six. One girl and one boy shall be declared the winners, and they will succeed the World's Largest Catsup Bottle when it passes on to the great recycling bin. King Catsup is dead! Long live King Catsup! -- Paul Friswold

Rock Bottom
It's not so bad

Rockwoods Reservation (2751 Glencoe Road, Wildwood; 636-458-2236) is one of those places that really lives up to its name. It has lots of woods; in fact the park's practically covered in trees. And beneath the dewy shade of those towering timbers, there are several rocks. But instead of just lying around, some of this limestone actually makes up cave walls. Visit Rockwoods' cave -- and check out the creepy critters who love it -- from sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. Word to the wise: Wear long pants, tread lightly and hike the 1.5-mile Trail Among the Trees or the 3.2-mile Lime Kiln Loop Trail when you're done spelunking. As far as walks go, these rock! -- Alison Sieloff

Math Hysteria

SUN 7/11

In the cool fluorescent light of the testing arena, it is easy to be distracted by the glitz of the Big Show, the Kumon Math Challenge. Scholarships worth $100 to $1,200 are at stake at every grade level, with the top mathletes pulling down the most cash.

But you don't compete for the money. You compete because you love the sport of it. The sound of the adhesive tab on the test booklet being broken open by 30 razor-sharp mechanical pencils in unison. The adrenaline rush that comes with hearing muttered curses to Pythagoras when the pack hits word problem number sixteen, which you had broken down a full ten minutes ago. The smell of flopsweat as they give up. The knowledge that you, and you alone, are the one who untangles the polynomial equations with the confident ease of a young Newton. Yeah, remainder this, bitches.

The Kumon Math Challenge costs $15 to enter (www.kumon.com) and takes place at 11 a.m. at Washington University (Forsyth and Skinker boulevards). -- Paul Friswold