valley park
They have, uh, dispatched upwards of 2 million pesky mice a year, if you extrapolate from the 1,000 American barn owls that have been released to the wild by the propagation department (really) of the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park. Located in the extreme southwest corner of our readership area, the sanctuary has been breeding and releasing these beautiful birds for 35 years, many in Warrenton just on the other side of St. Charles … from a barn. Fitting. You might not have heard about a mouse infestation out yonder anytime recently. And there also may be somewhat of a squirrel shortage. The owls are ‘released’ into the safe and secure barn of a conservationist where they can test their wings, eventually to venture farther and farther away in search of prey for themselves (and later, naturally, their young) in a process that acclimates thems to a purely wild existence. This raising and releasing of owls since 1981, along with other successful ‘hacking’ programs throughout Missouri, has led to the graceful bird no longer being considered endangered in the state. The 1,000th barn owl release (and 1,001st; a sibling was let go, too) was on May 18. The term hacking was coined long before computers became so personal and people began hacking websites for good or ill. With piercing eyes and a heart-shaped face, these owls look wise; why not see for yourself? For a peep at what goes on at World Bird Sanctuary (where veterinarians recently successfully extricated an arrow from, of all things, a Canada goose), Google 125 Bald Eagle Ridge Road, 63088. Go see some owls! It’s a hoot. (Sorry. Really.)

Ground was broken last week, the day after Memorial Day, for Veterans Honor Park, which is to be situated adjacent to the Chesterfield Amphitheater in that city’s Central Park. The mission is ‘to honor veterans of the United States armed forces, past, present and future, by acknowledging the sacrifices made, sense of duty, and courage they have displayed in service to our country.’ The park, featuring a round fountain base with a star shape in the middle, looks to be a wonderful spot for relaxing or remembering. One of the six flags flanking Old Glory will be the stark, black & white banner commemorating the longest conflict in U.S. history, the Vietnam War. We may never know how many veterans are being held prisoner in Southeast Asia or have died as POWs or MIAs there.

Believe it: Eureka, not downtown St. Louis, might be the place to see the most spectacular Fourth of July fireworks display anywhere this year. The town won a USA Today contest that attracted 6,400 entries from people nationwide who thought their town deserved the prize: an all-American celebration. The ‘Red, White and You’ entry from resident Tony Colona read, in part … “In December 2015, our small suburban town … suffered historic flooding. Most of our downtown area, along with some subdivisions, had close to 6 feet or more of standing water. Our town rallied together to weather the storm, with many pitching in to sandbag or move people in danger, but much of our historic downtown area is still closed for repairs. A Fourth of July celebration, along with some media attention showing Eureka residents’ resolve and optimism would do much to lift the spirits of many who have had a very difficult start to 2016. Our motto is ‘Eureka Strong,’ and you can see these signs on many of the businesses downtown that still are closed.” Not mentioned by Colona was that Eureka canceled a New Year’s Eve celebration because of the epic flood and heavy rains four days after Christmas that left many communities very soggy, at the least. Kudos to this city in the foothills of the Ozarks for winning this over-the-top, patriotic party!

‘Let Them Eat Art’ is Maplewood’s annual festival loosely themed after Bastille Day, featuring a taste from restaurants throughout the city—and, this year, larger-than-life bowling pins to celebrate Saratoga Lanes … the only second-floor bowling alley anywhere nearby (imagine being the first-floor tenant!). In the spirit of the French Revolution, it’s called ‘Heads Will Bowl.’ We are pretty sure there is no guillotine and noggin-catching basket involved on Friday, July 8 (but, is there anyone else out there who started rubbing their neck reflexively?), so come one, come all down to old Route 66 to eat, drink and make merry, and celebrate Saratoga’s first century. Some of you may even have a bowling shirt that hasn’t been picked up from the cleaners in almost that long. There’s live music, art demonstrations, and at 6 p.m., a parade northbound along Sutton from Railroad Street to the alley being fêted (where Saratoga Lanes lives). The 5-foot bowling pins, created by the ’Wood’s own studio, The Designery, and rendered all artful by creative types from graphics and marketing firms around town, will be on display on the Main Stage near Saratoga. From 8 to 11 p.m. you can even Vote for Pedro. There’ll be art, art and more art, as well as a performance by Circus Kaput, face-painting and some things you’ve come to expect (and plenty you haven’t) at a classic town ‘homecoming.’

It was a holiday, so lots of folks got to do pretty much what they wanted last Monday, from barbecuing animal parts (and maybe even some vegetables) to shopping till they dropped at some of the gazillion sales around town. A whole family even ambled across Brentwood Boulevard in the middle of the afternoon, with drivers waiting patiently as Mom, Pop and youngsters crossed from one water feature to another immediately south of I-64 in Brentwood, the ‘City of Warmth,’ as the wall above the fountain announces. None was carrying a shopping bag, though. It was a gaggle of geese, with one adult in front and another in the back, and the six or so fuzzy goslings marching in-between. Well, one youngster was taking up the rear, with the adult trying to help it move along clumsily in the right direction. I’m sorry to report that a few drivers were secretly fuming as they waited, possibly wishing they could mow down the entire group with impunity, as they might have were it an opossum in the dead of night. Those irked motorists, no doubt, live and work west of I-270, where, it seems, the entire U.S. population of Canada geese breeds in their neighborhoods, office parks and golf courses. Those same drivers probably rue the day that this huge, loud and obnoxious bird was declared a federally protected species.