Our usual summer concert-going has been interrupted this year by my busier work schedule, a month-long visit from my parents (whom I dearly love, but my father was NOT impressed by the weather, and he was NOT going to sit around in the heat to listen to music!!) and various other commitments with the kids.

But coming up is one you won’t want to miss: Benton Park is doing a back-to-school concert on Saturday (Aug. 7) with three musical acts plus a scooter show, back-to-school food drive, live art, children’s art, carnival games, a food tent, a beer tent, free yoga, free massage … With all that, I hardly need to mention the bands, but I will do so anyway, because they rock:

  • The Saint Elizabeth (school) Percussion Group
  • Celia (a local kids’ performer who needs no introduction and no last name)
  • Big Bamou (New Orleans-style jazz and funk)

The concert runs a very family-friendly 4:15 to 9 p.m.  The only quirk to concerts at Benton Park is that, if the weather is hot (which this year is almost a guarantee!) the fans tend to stick to the shade along the edges of the basic where the stage is, leaving the bands to play to 50 yards’ worth of empty lawn. The upside is that the playground is close by, should the little ones get antsy.

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Happy 2nd of July!

July 1, 2010

What sets hard-core St. Louisans apart from the rest of us is this: True natives will brave the heat of summer for the VP Parade. The rest of us will wait for a cooler holiday — say, Mardi Gras — to make our parade appearances.

But I’m looking at the forecast and thinking I can stomach the heat this year, especially if we plan to arrive early and get the prime viewing spots right along CityGarden at Ninth and Market. The parade starts at Fourth and Washington around 10 a.m. and travels toward the end point at 20th and Market, so the plan is to arrive early with a box of donuts, let the kids play awhile, then sit down, relax and watch the parade pass by.

It looks like it will be a good one, too — marching bands (always my favorite), floats, helium balloons and “unique vehicles,” whatever that means. One hundred units total, stretching five miles in length. And, of course, it’s the kickoff to Fair St. Louis, the free event under the Arch. Even a non-native can appreciate those concerts and fireworks after the hot sun goes down.

This morning at the gym I had to laugh — two women were arguing over which weather forecast to believe. One TV channel said tomorrow would clear up and be sunny; another said that wouldn’t happen until Wednesday. Both women just wanted to be outside without rain, and I can’t say that I blame them. I am pretty tired of mud-stained jeans and socks myself.

It’s hard to advocate outdoor activities given the weather lately, but I’m going to go ahead and do it, for two events downtown. One is this Friday (May 21): the U.S. Bank Bridge Bash. It’s  a rare opportunity for kids to witness a wrecking ball taking a swing at a building, in this case the eyesore skybridge. For my boys, that 5 p.m. swing will be the highlight of the day. But plans also include food and live music from 4 to 7 p.m. between Eighth and Ninth streets on Washington Avenue.

And if wreaking balls aren’t your thing, maybe you’re into chess? It seems like most kids are these days — and with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in the news so much, the trend probably won’t wane anytime soon. Starting this month, the folks who book the Old Post Office Plaza downtown have started promoting what they call Chess Club Mondays from noon to 7 p.m. We haven’t been down to see it yet (blame the weather!) but if you know anything about chess, it should be an interesting way to spend part of the afternoon.

I’m psyched! One week from today, barring wickedly bad weather, the outdoor concert season starts at the Missouri History Museum! Yes, Twilight Tuesdays debuts for the spring season on April 27, seven short days away.

I’m especially looking forward to the third concert, which features one of my husband’s favorite local bands, Boogie Chyld, in a Michael Jackson tribute that was rescheduled from last fall due to inclement weather. (To check on a concert’s status, call 800.916.8212 after 3 p.m.)

The music begins at 6:30 p.m. on the north side (aka the front lawn) of the museum. There are chairs available on a first-come, first-served basis, but we always like to hang out on the lawn, where there’s more room for the kids to dance.

It’s not uncommon to see some pretty elaborate picnics at this series, but if that’s not your style you can purchase food on site.

The final concert in the spring series is June 8. Between now and then, you’ll have the opportunity to hear salsa, R&B, Sinatra tunes, gospel, rock and more. And did I mention the Michael Jackson tribute on May 11?

We’re just a few days away from one of St. Louis’ most colorful and lively events, and no, I’m not talking about the Cardinals’ opening game. This is a free event blog, remember?

The Washington University Powwow is Saturday (April 10) at the Fieldhouse. Doors open at 10 a.m.; activities for the kids go from 1:30 to 6 p.m.  The drumming and dancing goes on all day, but the highlight is the Grand Entry at 1 and 7 p.m.

There are more than a dozen contest categories, and I won’t go into them all here, but it doesn’t hurt to do a little advance reading and video-watching so that when your kids have the inevitable questions, you’ll be armed. However, the announcer will also walk the audience through what’s happening — this event celebrates Native American culture in a public setting where education is encouraged. So let your kids ask questions, and ask some yourself too.

This morning we saw a few St. Pat’s racers picking up breakfast at the Bread. Co., and their visits were overlapping with folks getting warm drinks to fortify themselves for the parade downtown. The Irish Village on Kiener Plaza is still going on, with live music until 6 p.m., but I haven’t been able to get my kids interested in much outdoors since last weekend. They’d rather be inside playing computer games — and I have to admit I don’t much blame them!

It’ll be a lot nicer on Wednesday (March 17) for the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ 26th annual parade in Dogtown, along Tamm Avenue. It’s supposed to be back in the 50s for the noontime parade. Luck of the (truly) Irish, I guess! There are more than 100 units in the parade, including many Irish dance schools and heritage groups. But make sure you park legally (the parking lots south of Manchester are a good bet, though you’ll have to hike back uphill to reach the parade route). And be sure to leave glass containers at home.

Unless you have a really good excuse to stay indoors, get out and enjoy the fabulous 50-degree weather predicted for this weekend! Two free options I like are:

  1. The Moolah Shrine Circus Parade along Main Street in St. Charles, Saturday (March 6) at noon. I admit to being a fan of the little cars, but what I really dig are the marching bands, and this parade promises to have some good ones.
  2. The Maple Festival at Pere Marquette Lodge in Grafton, Ill., on Sunday (March 7) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a first-time event at this particular location, but we’ve attended the one at Rockwoods Reservation in Wildwood and had a great time.

If nothing else, check your yard for signs of spring (buds on trees, daffodils poking up through the dirt) and have your kids record their findings in a nature journal.  You can buy these with observation suggestions built in, or you can make your own by simply arming your child with a notebook and some crayons or colored pencils and asking him some leading questions.

Mr. Stinky Feet (Jan. 10)

January 6, 2010

As the snow slowly drifts down and the boys are dreaming peacefully of snowmen and sledding*, I’m going to jump right ahead to Sunday, for a rockin’ good indoor time. Jim Cosgrove, aka Mr. Stinky Feet, plays Off Broadway at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10, in KDHX’s family-friendly concert series.

M. and I took in Justin Roberts a couple of months ago at Off Broadway and had a blast. It turns out to be a good venue because it’s bar-like enough to make kids feel they’ve entered a forbidden realm (and it sells beer during the show!) but it doesn’t have that skanky smoke-smelling bar vibe. Most of the parents chose the floor seating — and I do mean floor — right in front the stage so their toddlers could get up and dance, but M. at age 6 was too cool for that, and he preferred to sit upstairs — on chairs, yay! — and chill out.

Tickets are $8 a the door, $5 in advance, kids 1 and under free.  If you’re a football fan, you may miss the end of the first game, but the concert only runs an hour, so you won’t miss much of the second.  And it’ll be worth it!

* If you’re on the blog looking for a good sledding hill, our favorite is at Lyon Park on Broadway at Arsenal!

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Saint Louis Symphony’s Family Concert Series. A major portion of the hour-long program was dedicated to The Nutcracker Suite, as befits the season. Dancers performed short interpretations of the various pieces, which caught S.’s attention, but M. was more about the music. Ever since, we’ve had the CD on heavy rotation in the living room. It was a reminder to me that music I take somewhat for granted might be new to the kids, and there’s something special about seeing my old favorites through their young eyes (or ears, in this case).

Thus one of the many event e-mails bombarding me this week caught my attention. It was from the Town and Country Symphony Orchestra, which performs a free Sunday afternoon (Dec. 13) concert at 2:30 p.m. in the Ridgway Auditorium on the Principia campus. Specifically, I saw that Sleigh Ride was on the program. There’s plenty of other classic holiday music too, if slower songs are more your style, but I do like the pep of Sleigh Ride.

If the holiday season’s too busy, check out the Town and Country Symphony’s other free shows, in January, February, March and May.

If you happen to be hitting the Justin Roberts concert at Off Broadway today at 3 p.m. — not free, but at $10 per person it’s worth it for hard-core Yellow Bus fans like my boys! — consider coming over to Cherokee Street before or afterward. From 1 to 7 p.m., the annual Dia de los Muertos festival will be taking place, centered around the Cherokee-California corner. This year the organizers have set up a cemetery so we anglos can see how a traditional commemoration of the dead might look. You can learn more on the Riverfront Times blog post here. Even if you can’t stay long, it’s worth stopping by the many bakeries on the street for the sweet and delicious pan de muertos.