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.

I had every intention of cramming last weekend as full of blog-worthy activities as I possibly could … but S. came down with a very high fever, which was sort of scary because he was already on antibiotics due to a sinus infection and had no other symptoms other than a temperature of 102F and 103F for about 36 hours.  And then it vanished, and he was fine.  So we did go pick apples on Sunday, as planned — we went to Broom Orchard in Carlinville, as we always do, but I also heard good reports on the pickin’ Sunday at Eckert’s and at Brauetigam Orchards.  (If you missed my post on orchards in southern Illinois, check out this link.)

So now I’ve got half a bushel of apples crammed into my fridge.  It doesn’t seem like much in the middle of the orchard, but trust me, that $16 bag will suddenly contain A LOT of apples once you get it home!

For better or worse, this coming weekend gives me a chance to over-schedule the family once again, as it’s filled to bursting with great activities.  Here’s a short list:

  1. Chalk Art in Benton Park, Saturday (Oct. 4) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The fee to pre-register is $20 for adults and $1 for kids; the purse for the top three artists is a total of $400.  It’s free to walk along the sidewalks and have your own Mary Poppins moments.  And be sure to check out Benton Park’s new playground!!!  Kudos to the Benton Park Playgroup and everyone else who contributed time and ideas (and especially funds!) to getting the wonderful new equipment.  In the past two weeks I’ve run into more acquaintances and friends there than I had in the previous four years, so in the sense of bringing the neighborhood together it’s a complete success.
  2. The St. Louis Route 66 Festival, Saturday (Oct. 4) on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.  I love the bridge anytime, but seeing it decked out with classic cars, motorcycles, art, food and musicians will be an absolute treat.  There’s also a sock hop in the evening and a “walk-in” movie after the sun goes down.  Showing “American Graffiti,” which is utterly appropriate.  There’s no fee for the public, and my tip for timing your visit is for noon to 1 p.m. to hear Gene Dobbs Bradford and The Blues Inquisition or 3 to 4 p.m. to hear Kim Massie.
  3. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’ Kids ArtStart holds its first workshop of the season on Saturday (Oct. 4) at 10 a.m.  As usual, The Rep itself is the featured arts organization for the innaugural event, although other groups and genres will be featured at the monthly workshops between now and April. Admission is free, and the whole family is welcome to attend.

And that’s only Saturday!!!  Come back tomorrow and I’ll give you some ideas for Sunday.

We love our smack-in-the-middle-of-things location, but one drawback is that few of our beloved free concerts take place within walking distance of our house.  That’ll change this weekend, when Benton Park hosts an outdoor free concert.  This is our first concert in Benton Park, and we’re full of anticipation.  The act is Rough Grooves, a four-piece, high-energy blues band, playing from 4 to 6:30 p.m.  Wear the kids out and get them home just before bedtime!  I love it.

While we’re out and about, we might head back toward Cherokee Street — remember a couple of weeks ago how I told you you’d get hooked?  Well, this weekend is the Cherokee-Lemp History Fair, complete with historical and architectural tours of a neighborhood whose roots extend to the 1840s, street musicians, food and art exhibits.  The festival covers the eastern end, the antiques district; check out the organization’s homepage for details.  What M. and I have enjoyed about this festival in years past is that the musicians are right on the sidewalk, often playing acoustic, which makes up-close listening highly enjoyable.  Come early and snag a good seat at one of the sidewalk cafes.

Then head over to Benton Park for that concert.  It’s a short walk up to Jefferson and Arsenal.  Details are on the neighborhood organization’s homepage.