Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 9.11.19

u. city   
If you’ve never seen the Brittany Wood neighborhood on the western edge of U. City, it’s picture-perfect. People should paint it, in fact. You must visit sometime during the day Sunday, Sept. 22. No, I don’t moonlight as a real estate agent, so I’m not promoting an open house for a lovely home. (A real charmer!) I’m making you aware of U. City’s fourth annual Plein Air Festival & Garden Tour, where artists will set up outside and work from the early morning until 3:30 p.m., weather permitting. Our photo is of the 2018 second-place finisher by Allen Kriegshauser, who will be competing again this year for Best in Show, which brings with it a $250 cash prize. (Kriegshauser only took home $50 less last year; a $200 prize is awarded for second place, $150 for third. You can only imagine how fabulous the first-place winner was.) Artists may work anywhere within city limits and in any medium, save sculpture and photography, to be considered for judging at 4 p.m. at the U. City Community Center in Heman Park. The garden tour also includes Brittany Woods Middle School, Ruth Park Golf Course and the Green Center. A reception catered by Salt + Smoke and Urban Chestnut Brewery begins at 5 p.m., during which cash prizes and the People’s Choice award will be announced. The event benefits nonprofit U City in Bloom, which plants and maintains flora in the city’s public spaces.

Wish to leap into the air and whirl, completing a triple axel … but, oops, stick an icy landing smack on your backside instead? Soon we’ll have another place in the metro where anyone can watch you try to skate. It’s been in the works awhile, but with the selection of an architect (Chiodini) and general contractor (S.M. Wilson), it appears that construction of a new ice rink in Shaw Park is set to begin sometime this fall. Plans for a $7.5 million project approved about two years ago are moving forward, for an approximate $2.7 million more than that. Has inflation been that heinous? No, thank goodness. It’s that two other items already green-lighted—the streetscape and a Century Garden—have been folded into the rink project. So it’s not a budget-buster. Skaters need not be Claytonians; folks from all over will be able to pay for skating here, as they can at Steinberg Skating Rink in Forest Park. The new $10.2 million complex—25,000 square feet altogether—will feature an 18,000-square-foot multipurpose building with room for renting skates and warming up while watching other skaters. A tennis center is part of the plan, as is a catering kitchen and party room to accommodate about 35 people. Once the Architectural Review Board signs off on a few design details, demolition will begin, says Patty DeForrest, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. DeForrest says the project is slated for completion by November 2020. During warmer months, the rink will convert to turf for sports and other events.

st. louis   
Vince McMahon is a pro wrestling entrepreneur. By ‘pro,’ we mean that if you aren’t sure it’s fake, you must believe there are aliens at Area 51, and both Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster are as real as Santa Claus. You see, McMahon has established an alternative to the NFL, known as the XFL. And many folks around these parts are squirming with the same excitement they have whenever they get to see an MMA fight. If an NFL game is like a boxing match, maybe an XFL game could be similar to an MMA fight, only with a whole stadium full of knuckleheads … we mean gladiators … we mean rabid fans and bloodthirsty players. Or not. Probably nobody will rush onto the field to whack a player or ref with a folding chair. The league claims that the game will consist of ‘Less Stall. More Ball.’ It seems like a dream come true for any fan frustrated by what seems like two hours of timeouts and commercials that occur after the 2-minute warning in an NFL game. Or, for gridiron addicts who absolutely must have pro football during that interminable annual drought after the Super Bowl. The St. Louis Battlehawks, one of the league’s eight inaugural teams, will start playing next February at their home field in the Dome at America’s Center. Yes, we submit, the team name is lame. (I recall the Dome was vacated by some other football team a number of years ago. The erstwhile team’s name will come to me; I believe it was controlled by some crackpot named Kroenke.)

the metro 
Ever get to a concert late, or never get there at all? Back in the days of Mississippi Nights, I had a pair of tickets to see Elastica, a trend-setting Britpop band in the mid-1990s. (You’ve never heard of them? Justine Frischmann was chief songwriter, singer and bassist. No? Whatevs.) When I met my friend Steve at The Nights, I couldn’t find our tickets, and we missed the show. Well, I hate to break it to you, but you’ve already missed arguably the biggest country concert ever in these parts. (Well, actually, just a glimpse—so, whew.) A free preview of Ken Burns’ 16-hour series, Country, was presented last Wednesday (Sept. 4) outside at Nine Network’s Public Media Commons, along with a sampling of what else is coming up this fall. The miracle of TV means that we’ll get to see the production starting this Sunday (Sept. 15) at 7 p.m. on PBS (Channel 9, KETC). The series will air for eight nights in two-hour installments. It’s public TV, so it’s free. What’s more, it streams online after the broadcast. Ken Burns is an amazing documentarian, in this scribe’s humble opinion. His series on the Civil War aired 29 years ago this month, followed by riveting historical series on baseball, jazz and the Vietnam War. (Postscript: Alas, my Elastica tix never did turn up; not in the car, at home, anywhere. But I’ve rocked out to their debut album for, let’s see … 24 years now.)

notable neighbors

the delmar loop 
The first thing you need to know about Rachelle L’Ecuyer is how to pronounce her name. One may avoid mumbling in faux French by simply looking at her business card, or email boilerplate. Right beneath her name, in parentheses, it reads ‘pronounced: ra-shell lek-we-ay’. L’Ecuyer, executive director of The Delmar Loop, is every bit as unique as the great street she represents, which is divided between The Lou and U. City by Skinker Boulevard. (It was named one of the 10 Great Streets in America by the American Planning Association.) Diversity and thoughtfully planned urban development are in her genes: Her late father, James ‘Jim’ L’Ecuyer, was Skinker-DeBaliviere’s community development director. “I grew up ‘spooned’ on this,” she says. And it’s been the focus of her professional life, beginning in NYC with the city’s nonprofit Landmarks Conservancy. She managed to stay for 10 years, but the cost of living became prohibitive for a single mom with two little boys—Jacob, now 23, and Noah, 21. L’Ecuyer returned to the metro, making her mark as community development director for Maplewood. The close-in suburb, which already had Taste of Maplewood and a Christmas tree walk marked as official communityinvolvement events, soon became a draw for its mid-July street fest, Let Them Eat Art, with a logo and theme evoking Bastille Day, the 1789 fuse for the French Revolution. L’Ecuyer gives a nod to Jay Schober of Maya Café for offhandedly suggesting a name for the festival during a meeting with merchants and other city stakeholders, and it stuck. But she takes full credit for her marketing slogan: ‘Somewhere between Mayberry and Metropolis is Maplewood.’ L’Ecuyer frequently alerted the media to happenings, from the Sweet Tooth Tour and Coffee Crawl to an event focused on the neighborhood’s femaleowned businesses (30%) and Prost!, Maplewood’s toast to local beers and fare. Doing serious marketing doesn’t mean she takes herself too seriously. Most every April 1, she distributed a tonguein-cheek news release; one alleged the streets department would be filling potholes with maple-scented asphalt. (They weren’t, of course, but we had to call … April Fools!) She’s continued to pique our interest, meanwhile raising an eyebrow or two, for the past year on behalf of The Loop. “I’ve never worked with a true visionary before,” she says—referring to Joe Edwards, impresario of The Loop. L’Ecuyer has settled into in her element with, among other things, Get Loop’d, a neighborhood-wide celebration the first Friday of every month. What’s next? Continuing to generate excitement and help revive Delmar, block by block, to the east. Who knows—maybe it could start as far in as Vandeventer before our grandchildren are all grown.