The Fourth of July wouldn't be Independence Day without Fair St. Louis, the July 3-5 riverfront celebration featuring food, music and family events. The booths lining Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard will be packed with international and local foods; most of the music, rides and games will be up the big steps, on the Arch grounds.

The Fair is seeking to create a more hospitable attraction for families while acquiescing to the needs and wants of the crowd. Child-identification tents will be located at fairground entrances, and a lost-children tent will be set up near the intersection of Market Street and Memorial Drive, north of the Old Cathedral. Fair St. Louis has even created "tour packages" for families coming to the Fair -- a Family Fun Village, arts-and-crafts activities and educational/historical programs will be incorporated. These are the things that make the Fair fun -- getting the family out and enjoying an afternoon together -- but if you're looking to waste time and do something alone, the Fair provides an Internet tent, just in case the events, booths and concerts become boring and you need your daily dose of online porn.

The big draw for many at the Fair are the concerts, held at 2 and 8:30 p.m. daily under the Arch. Saturday's schedule features Hootie and the Blowfish in the afternoon and Dionne Warwick in the evening; Sunday has the Little River Band and the Temptations; and Monday's shows feature a country lineup consisting of Tracy Byrd and, as the fair's closing act, superstar Wynonna. Three times daily, F/A-18 Hornets, F-15 Eagles, Harriers, Apache helicopters and other air-assault vehicles will show off for the crowds.

Among the other things you may need to know about the weekend: The Veiled Prophet parade takes place at 10 a.m. Saturday, and all surface streets east of Third Street between Chouteau and Poplar will be closed for the weekend.

So let's all meet by the south leg of the Arch, hoist a few cups of Busch Bavarian, strip to the waist and brawl in the ponds with our jeans on.

--James A. Duffy

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