One of the few facets of the 1904 World's Fair to be ignored in all the hoopla of its centennial anniversary has been The Pike, the mile-long sideshow/amusement park/spectacle that amused (or bemused) our forebears the same way Trading Spouses amuses/bemuses the modern St. Louisan. The Pike provided glimpses of the unusual (Hagenbeck's Wild Animal Display featured exotic beasts such as monkeys) and the sublime (elephants tumbling down waterslides). The Bazoink! theatrical group re-creates The Pike through the power of imagination and stagecraft between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Saint Louis Galleria (Brentwood Boulevard and Clayton Road; 314-863-6633). Kids ages three to eleven learn about this almost-forgotten treasure, then make World's Fair Souvenirs and leave with a better understanding of humanity's shared love for the bizarre. And this love don't cost a thing.
Thursday, July 29
So maybe this summer you tried to plan a fancy trip to California's wine country. You did your wine research (several bottles' worth, in fact), but when it came down to making the travel plans, you realized that visiting Napa Valley would cost about a used car more than your yearly pilgrimage to the Lake of the Ozarks. Unfortunately, instead of a West Coast party, you ended up with a Party funkin' Cove party. Again. Not very sophisticated (but quite a learning experience nonetheless). But what if we told you that you could visit viney, winey California for only $10? At first you'd probably think that Mr. Night & Ms. Day were twisting your cork, but we wouldn't do that. Stop by Brennan's Café (4659 Maryland Avenue; 314-361-9444) for a West Coast Wine Tasting at 6:30 p.m. to see for yourself. The Brennan brothers are serving up some great wines of the west and a few tasty snacks, all of which should help you stop lamenting your bad vacation (and your lost bikini top).
Friday, July 30
A raw-food party is a strange thing, especially here in the Midwest. Apparently in New York City there's a raw-food restaurant on every corner (relatively speaking of course), but not here, not in the Hardee's Thickburger capital of the world. And we think raw food is strange...anyway, back to this party. You convince yourself, "It will be OK. I've had raw food. I had a lettuce bun wrapped around my burger just the other day." Lettuce is raw, it's true, but that's only the tip of the raw iceberg salad. Raw-food meals can consist not only of salads but also of finely puréed, uncooked, cool vegetable soups; meatless taco-tasting lettuce wraps; and sorbet-type cakes for dessert. Not so bad for healthy, huh? Let chef Gretchen Morfogen at Whole Foods (1601 South Brentwood Boulevard; 314-968-7744) teach you more about the benefits of uncooked foods and the tastiness of unoaked wines. Her Ladies Night Out: Food in the Nude class runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and costs $20. Oh yeah, a bit of advice: Don't go in there asking, "Where's the beef?"
Saturday, July 31
Just in time for the Olympics, Eckert's Blackberry Jam Festival is the final warm-up for peach stompers before taking it back to Athens. Sure, that Belarusian team looks pretty good ("feet like cast-iron skillets" is what the scouts are saying), but you're an American: Gold is your destiny. Just like at the Olympic level, peach stompers at Eckert's compete in two-person teams, the stomper and the swabber. The stomper smashes twenty pounds of luscious peaches to pulp with his bare feet, and the swabber collects the juice and bottles it. The team that pounds out the most juice in three minutes is the winner, and no, losers don't have to drink their own peach-foot juice. Competition begins at noon, and it's $5 to enter a two-person battery. There are prizes, blackberry jams and jellies to console the losers, and the sweet bluegrass sounds of the Chris Talley Trio to serenade the victorious. Admission is free, and Eckert's is located at 951 South Greenmount Road in Belleville, Illinois (618-233-0813). Check out www.eckerts.com for more info.
Sunday, August 1
If you're in need of an evening of intricately choreographed, highly stylized kinetic excitement, look no further than The Marchdown 2004. Sponsored by the Alpha Eta Chapter of the Alpha Pi fraternity, the oldest Greek organization for African Americans, the Marchdown is a fundraiser for local high school graduates; it's also a percussive spectacle, as teams of young men in matching outfits perform unbelievably complicated routines of synchronized chants and step-dancing, aided by canes, walking sticks and whatever else can be manipulated to heighten the drama. Think of it as ballet on blasting caps. Tickets to the Marchdown are $15 to $25, and the show gets underway at 6 p.m. at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis (1 University Boulevard). Call the Alpha Eta Chapter at 314-751-0898 for more information.
Monday, August 2
If there had been no SCTV, the '80s would have been an even bigger waste than they were. The Canadian television series, itself a parody of television, thoroughly mangled the idea of what was funny. While its contemporary American cousin, Saturday Night Live, struggled and eventually fell into the formulaic comedy-with-guest-stars trap it was supposedly rebelling against, SCTV worked magic week after week with the same cast and writers, creating characters both memorable (Jackie Rogers Jr. anyone?) to memorable and beloved (Count Floyd!). Of course, with a cast that included John Candy, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin and a young Martin Short, you're already a long leg up on the Piscopos and Kroegers of the world. Frederick's Music Lounge (4454 Chippewa Street; 314-351-5711) salutes the greatness with an evening of the best of SCTV Network 90, the recently released five-disc DVD set. Admission is free, and the fun will run from happy hour (which begins at 5 p.m.) through the wee hours of the evening.
Thursday, August 3
Probe deep enough and you'll discover that almost everyone is a collector of something. Mr. Night, by way of example, collects monographs of cyborgs dressed as riverboat gamblers. Oddly enough, there are folks who pursue even stranger obsessions, and the St. Louis Artists' Guild (2 Oak Knoll Park; 314-727-9599) celebrates them in its new exhibit, The Wondrous, the Whimsical, and the Weird: Objects from Private Collections. Featured collections include a display of bottle openers, a mass of political memorabilia and an array of Kool-Aid packages. Suddenly, that etching of the High Rollerbot 4200 doesn't seem so unusual after all. The gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m., and admission is free.