St. Louis welcomes ASAE with a festival of food, fellowship, fine music, and fireworks
Napoleon Bonaparte said “An Army marches on its stomach.” Most convention delegates do too, and what better place to feed the troops than St. Louis, home of the original fast food.
According to Donna Andrews, Director of Public Relations for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, “You know you’ve arrived in a dining-obsessed destination when you discover not one, but two magazines completely dedicated to food.” Donna unblinkingly contends that the summer fast foods that we’ve come to associate with all American festivals and picnics – hot dogs, French’s yellow mustard, and ice cream cones, were invented at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
Almost everyone will agree that the Ice Cream cone was – but that’s just the beginning of the unforgettable tastes of the city.
“St. Louis celebrates a love of food with festivals throughout the year,” says Donna. St. Louis parties for two weeks prior to Lent with one of the largest Mardi Gras festivals in the nation including a Cajun cook-off. In summer restaurants join forces with beer makers for the Brewers’ Heritage Festival and the Rib American.”
So what better way to kick off the 91st ASAE Convention than with an opening night celebration on the Gateway Arch Grounds?
And it was a spectacular party.
The evening was built around a public music festival, featuring bands like Ragtime home-boy Ptah Williams, Chingy’s hip hop, Marsha Evans and the Coalition Blues, Erin Bale’s jazz renditions, and headline rock-star and five-time Grammy Award winner Michael McDonald.
A private circle for ASAE delegates under the Arch was formed by food stations featuring a couple of dozen of the best of the best restaurants in St. Louis, who were liberally offering samples of fast-food, St. Louis style:
- T-Ravs – “Toasted” (fried) ravioli topped with mozzarella and dipped in marinara sauce.
- Gooey Butter Cake
- Corn Chowder topped with bits of fresh crab
- Ted Drew’s Frozen Custard
- Mike Shannon’s Scallop Ceviche
- Sidney Street Rabbit Brat
- And of course, St. Louis style barbecue
And the evening was topped off with fireworks that one delegate described as better than the show on the fourth of July in Washington, DC.
It was hot, but with frosty margaritas and St. Louis’s home brewed beer, who noticed?
While it’s hard to look past the elements of the “celebration” itself — what was really remarkable was the way the business and association communities of St. Louis came together to welcome delegates. Literally hundreds of businesses and organizations, big and small, formed a “flash” association to put St. Louis on the map of the convention industry, and it the opening party is any indication, it looks like they will be succeeding.