One of my best friends, Ellen, lives in St. Louis. She had asked me before I left home if it would be possible for me to be back in this area by the 16th of September. The Missouri Humane Society, with which she is very involved, uses the Balloon Glow evening portion of the Great Forest Park Balloon Race as a fund raiser. When I learned that the donation included not only dinner and drinks but also access to field where the balloons are actually lit-up, I said 'you bettcha!'
The evening was overcast and damp but the rain thankfully held off. The traffic was horrendous but our ticket also included 'preferred parking.' We even managed to squeeze into a 'free' valet parking space.
This event takes place in Forest Park, the location of the St. Louis World's Fair that was held in 1904. Thankfully, many of the wonderful building have been preserved and are still in use. This enormous park also gives the residents of St. Louis a huge, wonderful 'green space' to enjoy.
What a sight - over 70 colorful and massive hot air balloons all being 'fired' together, next to each other. It is a sight that I cannot describe - it's just too beautiful for words....
My, and the majority of attendee's favorite balloon is the Energizer Bunny.
The day of the race dawned very windy and rainy and they couldn't keep the bunny up. The race took place, but without the big pink one, ear flopping in the air, leading the way.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner in a large tent, live music and very interesting and entertaining table-mates, all of us sharing stories about our pets, the majority of whom are 'rescues.'
Once the balloons were put the sleep, we enjoyed a large fireworks display and 'dancing balloon men' who I think looked like Dale Chihuley glass chandeliers.
As we were driving out of the Park, we stopped on Art Hill to stand and be deeply moved by the 9/11 memorial that had been set up to honor to those that passed on that day 10 years ago. A local man devised a way to precisely set 3000 flags, one for each person lost that day, each flag containing the name and location where that person was lost. To see those flags blowing in the wind and visualize a person replacing each flag...it brings our loss really home and to heart.
The next day we continue with a 'pet theme' and headed out to Purina Farms wonderful new Exhibit Hall where they were holding a regional, all-breed dog show. What a treat! I loved the topiary that were on each side of the entrance..
Once inside, the fluffing and brushing and primping was in full swing...
After petting and enjoying the dog show, we headed out to 'the bluffs' which is an area where many fine wineries are located. Ellen's sister has a large farm that is covered with vines, all heavily laden with fat, ripe grapes. (Harvest will be in the next week or two).
On our way to lunch we stopped by fabulous local glass artist Sam Stang's studio. Though Ellen has long been a fan, but I had never met Sam. Turned out that he had just returned from teaching at The Penland School of Craft - my old stompin' ground. We had a great time chatting about mutual friends.
Ellen and I then met her sister at the Montelle Winery for a bit of 'tasting' and a great lunch on the deck overlooking the beautiful valley as it falls away to the Missouri river.
After lunch it was off to St. Charles and a great little art fair along this little river town's historic downtown streets. A long but wonderful day.
Tomorrow it's back to driving the interstates, heading east and homeward. With one more stop and visit with friends in Charlotteville, VA, I will drive into Wilmington and home on Wednesday and this adventure will officially come to an end.
It doesn't seem possible that almost 2 months have passed since I started writing this blog. But I've had a great amount of time to think and re-think what I want to do with the rest of my life and I've come to some major decisions about the destination of my next adventure. But you'll just have to wait to learn what those are....
Until the next time....