St. Louis Traditions & Festivals
Fair St. Louis is a 3-day, 4th of July celebration along the Mississippi River, which attracts more than 1 million visitors every year. The 90-acre Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, with the majestic Gateway Arch, operated by the National Park Service, provides the perfect setting for what has become known as "America's Biggest Birthday Party." The Fair combines live music and entertainment with educational activities, delicious food and magnificent fireworks to bring multiple days of fun to St. Louis.
Fair St. Louis has its roots in the Veiled Prophet celebrations which began in 1878 when civic-minded businessmen brought costumes and floats from New Orleans in hopes of creating a fall version of Mardi Gras. Today, the Veiled Prophet Parade continues as part of the Fair, which was moved to July 4th in 1981.
A major highlight of each Fair is the spectacular fireworks that light up the night sky above the Arch-grounds. Ooo's and ahh's fill the night air as young and old thrill to the world-class, colorful extravaganza.
The Fair's greatest contribution to the community however, continues to be the flag-waving excitement it brings to St. Louis every Independence Day. Clowns, storytellers, musicians, and performers continue to thrill fairgoers of all ages year after year.
Strassenfest is when St. Louisans celebrate their German heritage. The event fills downtown streets in front of City Hall for four days every August. Carnival rides, local bands and dance groups entertain fairgoers with a variety of oom-pah-pah, jazz, rock and ragtime tunes.
Participants wave buckets of beer as they stroll from booth to booth sampling local German cuisine – bratwurst, potato pancakes, hot dogs, pork steaks, roasted corn, pretzels, funnel cakes, lemonade and bloomin’ onions, to name a few. For more information on this popular ethnic tradition, visit www.strassenfest.org for details on this year’s coming event.
The Live on the Levee concert series is a summer-long music fest featuring weekly concerts under the Gateway Arch along the St. Louis Riverfront. Live on the Levee spreads the action over five weeks, six including concerts during the 4th of July celebration, Fair St. Louis.
"Our priority was to offer something that lasted all summer long and to make it free," said Missy Slay of Celebrate St. Louis, the organization staging Live on the Levee and Fair St. Louis. "We are spoiled by all of the great free things to do in St. Louis, and there is certainly the expectation to keep events like this free."
As many as 20,000 visitors each night bring blankets, lawn chairs and refreshments to sit out under the stars and listen to the wafting sounds of jazz, blues, rock, ballads and oldies. Name bands and not-so-name bands entertain in the shadow of the Gateway Arch, overlooking the ever-changing Mississippi River. Live on the Levee is a cultural event steeped in the traditions and located in the heart of the true St. Louis.
Mardi Gras, St. Louis style, began 25 years ago as a quirky little parade in the Soulard neighborhood has exploded into an ongoing annual Mardi Gras celebration. Cold February temperatures and modest Midwestern ways have not kept the good times from rolling, although a family-only viewing area has been set up to protect the innocent.
Parades define Mardi Gras, beginning with the Fat Tuesday Parade and ending with the Costume Ball. The Mystic Krewe of Barkus Parade, an opportunity for pet lovers to show off their furry favorites, is billed as the largest dog parade in America. For more information, visit www.stlmardigras.org.