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THUR 9/15

Unlike puberty, the first go-cart ride is an adolescent rite of passage that many people would actually enjoy repeating in their adult lives. This mini-jaunt was likely the first autonomous driving experience a kid had, not counting those crappy bumper-car rides where you could "steer" the wheel an inch to the left or right. With go-carts, though, there was a perfunctory warning from the cart attendant -- something about not running into other drivers -- which you promptly ignored as you sped off, effectively preparing yourself for a lifetime of speeding tickets. So why not relive the past? Head to the NASCAR SpeedPark at St. Louis Mills (5555 St. Louis Mills Boulevard, Hazelwood; for a "Day at the Races" from 3 to 9:30 p.m. A mere $10 gets you an all-day-ride pass, but admission is free to watch local celebs race to raise money for their favorite charities; call 314-291-2131 for more information. -- Kristie McClanahan

Mama Mia!
Italian Fest returns

Experts are divided on the highlight of Collinsville's annual Italian Fest: Is it the Paisan Pedal Push bicycle ride or the Bocce Ball Tournament? Well, the experts are wrong on both counts. The best part of Italian Fest is whatever you happen to be enjoying at any given moment. Whether you're cheering on the parade, wagering serious ducats on the remote-control-car race (oh, fret not, He-Man; there is a Monster Truck category), basking in the radiant smiles of Little Miss and Little Mister Italian Fest, or simply jamming funnel cake down your gullet, you're having a good time. Now, if you and Little Mister Italian Fest split a funnel cake while making side bets on the RC car races, then you are enjoying what the Italians call the Trifecta, and your life is good. Italian Fest brightens lives from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday (September 16 and 17) all along downtown Collinsville, Illinois' Main Street, and admission is free; visit for a full schedule of events and more information. -- Paul Friswold

Balloon Swoon

When we think of high school, we think of Lynchburg Lemonade. But back then, the tiny bottles would run out before the, um, desired effect was obtained. All we underage drinkers ever really wanted was a super-size bottle of the tangy sweetness that could flow forever. And last year at the Great Forest Park Balloon Race, our prayers were answered (sorta). Will the giant balloon-bottle return? Who knows -- but rest assured we're going to find out. Join us as we attend the free Balloon Glow, held near the park's World's Fair Pavilion from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, September 16. And you know we'll be at Forest Park Saturday, September 17, when the free balloony festivities begin at noon (the race itself begins at 4:45 p.m.). For more information or a schedule of events, visit -- Alison Sieloff

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