Saturday, 05 October 2013 12:40

TPTBT (The Place to Be Tonight): Saturday, October 5

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What: The 8th Annual Grove Fest
When: Today from 2 PM until midnight
Where: The Grove Neighborhood (Manchester between Kingshighway and Vandeventer in St. Louis City)
Why: Grove Fest is an "outrageously eclectic" street festival.  Last year's Grove Fest drew 18,000 local residents to an event that has won praise for the diversity of its programming and turnout.   The 2011 Fest won the Best Event Entertainment Concept and Best Public Event Planning awards from the International Special Events Society.  And, of course, it's free (an important criterion for TPTBT).

"At this year’s Grove Fest," say organizers,  "expect a wide variety of live musical performances, live and interactive art, fashion shows, street performers, and of course, local food, drinks and wares of the Grove’s and St. Louis’s finest establishments."  The number of participating business is far too long to list here, so instead I'll just refer you to the event web site.  There's everybody from Amy's Corner Bakeshop to Zee Bee Market, along with plenty of performing arts groups.  If you can't find something to do here, you just aren't looking hard enough.

What does the Grove Fest look and sound like? You can check out photos from last year at the Grove Facebook page (no FB account required) and see a short video from the award-winning 2011 GF at Vimeo.

The Grove is one of those remarkable urban renewal success stories that make diehard city kids like yours truly take heart.  When I bought my first house 25 years ago (on Shaw), the area now known as The Grove just a few minutes north was called The Manchester Strip and was home mostly to boarded up shop fronts.  It wasn't an area you'd want to hang around in at night.  The problem was exacerbated by the run down and crime ridden McRee Town neighborhood (a classic case of the destruction wrought on city neighborhoods by interstate highway construction) just to the south.

Today McRee Town is the gentrified Botanical Heights and the Manchester Strip is the vibrant Grove.  The former was a classic example of "slash and burn" urban renewal, the latter an equally classic case of grass roots revitalization spurred by local business owners—including Chip Schloss (Atomic Cowboy) and Guy Slay (Mangrove Properties)—along with Restoration St. Louis.  You can debate which is the better approach (I certainly have my opinions on the subject), but there's no question that The Grove has been transformed from an eyesore to a sight for sore eyes, complete with a glitzy neon sign marking the entry to the neighborhood.

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