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Putting the Art Back in Party 

ACT ONE plays on Washington Avenue

It was Asian philosopher/martial-arts-movie superstar Bruce Lee who said, "The highest art is no art." With all due respect to the dead action hero, Washington Avenue will be bucking Zen tradition with an arty, intriguing, enthusiastic celebration called the Art, Culture and Tunes Festival (ACT ONE).

And unlike a certain other local art fair, it won't be a slow, silent funeral march past well-decorated but coffinlike cubicles, where admirers politely pay their humble respects to the gifted artists within. It's gonna be a St. Louis-style street party, says Mike Landau of ArtDimensions. "It's going to be bigger [than the usual], with more music, dance and events for a wide demographic of people in the city and the county, who can come out and party together. We want it to be loose and comfortable."

There'll be local rock, jazz and R&B bands (including the Murder City Players, pictured); choirs, string quartets and DJs; hip-hop, break and salsa dancing; city-bus painting; cooking demonstrations; a vintage-clothing fashion show; fire-jugglers; 100 artists' booths; an entire kids' venue supported by Disney Radio; and a downtown housing tour, all jammed into the birth canal of Washington Avenue.

Almost all of the artists participating will be homegrown as well, "so anything bought will be going back into the community, to a degree," says Landau.

"The revitalization of Washington Avenue is the true story of the revitalization of downtown St. Louis and this festival is a great beginning to the summer and the introduction of the new streetscape," adds Ann Chance, special-events manager for Downtown St. Louis Partnership. In other words, the barricades, sandbags and broken sidewalks are gone, replaced with new cobblestones running down a diverse and vibrant avenue lined with trees, decorative street lighting and windows on a new world of loft living, city eccentricity, urban renewal, rainbows, unicorns and fairy princesses.

For more information on the inaugural fest (11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, May 3, and 1 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, May 4), call 314-436-6500 or visit -- Tom R. Arterburn

Zoo To-Do With Nelly's Crew
Does that waiter look familiar?

MON 5/5

Nothing glitzes up a meal like a celebrity waiter, and the St. Louis Black Repertory Company's fundraising dinner "Who Says Men Can't Cook?" is being staffed entirely by local male celebrities, including the bling-tastic Nelly and his St. Lunatics. Tickets to the event are $75, but you get a complimentary cookbook and live entertainment for your money, along with the distinct possibility of being asked, "Would you like pimp juice with that?" while ordering dinner. The event takes place at the St. Louis Zoo (Forest Park) from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Call 314-534-3807 for reservations (no takeout orders, please). -- Paul Friswold

Glassy Eyes

FRI 5/2

What could be more entertaining than standing inches away from a roaring kiln whilst inflating a molten-glass bubble with nothing more than lungpower and moxie, knowing that too much force or irregular breathing could cause the sphere to explode in a shower of burning liquid and shards? What if we mention that drinking is allowed? The folks at Third Degree Glass Factory (pictured at right; 5200 Delmar Boulevard, 314-367-4527) are throwing a free open house on Friday, and in addition to the glassblowing and BYOB drinking, they're offering live music and some unusual audience-participation events, such as stretching a hunk of glass the width of the room. It's a little art, a little science and a whole lot of semidangerous fun. -- Paul Friswold

Mariachis and Mayhem

SUN 5/4

On May 5, 1862, a Mexican army of 4,000 defeated French troops numbering more than 6,000 in la Batalla de Puebla, a victory still celebrated in Cinco de Mayo celebrations across the North American continent.

Now in its sixth year, the Cinco de Mayo on Cherokee Street festival has won with similar numbers, growing from a draw of a few hundred along a single block to an attraction for upward of 10,000 along seven blocks.

Enjoy rides, music, food, free parking and a parade from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Cherokee Street between Jefferson and Nebraska avenues. Call 314-495-1193. -- Thomas R. Raber

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