St. Louis gears up for summer of riverfront celebrations

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Associated Press WriterST. LOUIS (AP) -- What, another party?

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected at Fair St. Louis, the city's three-day Fourth of July festival starting Friday on the banks of the Mississippi River under the Gateway Arch.

While the celebration is a regional tradition, 2004 isn't an average year for the Gateway City. Like a perfect storm of partygoing, forces from the city's history -- the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark exhibition, the centennial of the 1904 World's Fair and the city's hosting of the Olympic Games-- converged to result in a multitude of special events.

The festivities continue into the summer, with many of them along the city's riverfront.

The theme of Fair St. Louis is "Meet Me at the Fair," a nod to the 1904 song "Meet Me in St. Louis" about the World's Fair, Fair St. Louis director Rich Meyers said.

While the fair features air shows, free concerts -- by performers like Al Green and the Wallflowers-- and fireworks, this year's event also has ties to the city's history.

"The Pike" was an amusement area at the 1904 World's Fair. Fair St. Louis organizers have created "The Pike on Eads Bridge," a collection of rides, games and refreshments on the historic bridge linking Missouri and Illinois.

A sand sculpture will be carved with a 1904 World's Fair theme, and food highlights will include items popularized at the World's Fair -- like ice cream cones, iced tea and hot dogs.

Other reminders of the past will be on hand, from a replica trolley car to a National Park Service exhibit on Lewis and Clark and their travels to explore the Louisiana Purchase territory, which launched near St. Louis in 1804.

St. Louis has already hosted Olympic diving and women's marathon trials and the Olympic torch relay this year.

St. Louis 2004, a group working for improvements in the region, has more planned along the riverfront this summer. From July 15 to Aug. 21, the group will offer 18 free concerts on Thursday through Saturday nights, including The Neville Brothers, Liz Phair, Wyclef Jean and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

After the concerts, the group plans multimedia water shows, including images projected onto a giant screen made of water. St. Louis 2004 has also organized "Eats Bridge" on the Eads during those six weeks, where the public can eat Friday or Saturday night dinner or have Sunday brunch on the bridge.

The president of St. Louis 2004, Peter Sortino, said since he moved to St. Louis in the 1970s, he'd heard people ask why the region didn't plan more events along the Mississippi riverfront. "We really wanted the riverfront to come alive for the entire summer of 2004," he said.

Sortino said he's not worried that there will be too much going on this summer. "I think we can set the pace for the future," he said.

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