Fair St. Louis is one of St. Louis's biggest summer traditions. Whether you've been every year you've been alive or it's your first time attending this year, scope out this guide to plan ahead and make sure you've got everything you need for a good time at Fair St. Louis 2012.
Before you go...
Bring sunscreen and drink plenty of water. The forecast through the week is calling for more toasty temperatures, so hydrate ahead of time to prevent heat exhaustion and headaches.
Map out the festivities. Most of the action takes place under the Gateway Arch, specially cleared out to be packed with Fair activities.
Don't bring outside food or beverages, coolers, pets, professional recording equipment (smart phones, point and shoot cameras and Flip Cams are O.K.), or any motorized vehicles on grounds including bicycles, scooters and skateboards.
If you're planning on sticking around for fireworks or the concerts, tote a blanket to set up picnic-style or lawn chairs for seating. Bug spray might be useful, too.
Since food and drinks aren't allowed in to the Fair, several vendors will be set up at booths throughout the grounds. Have cash handy -- proceeds from the booths will benefit local charities.
To avoid finding a parking spot downtown, take advantage of Metro Transit. Extra train and bus vehicles will be operating to accommodate large crowds. Plan out your route from start to finish and note that the closest -- and probably most popular -- stop to the fair grounds is Laclede's Landing.
The MetroLink is running rush hour service from 6-11:30 p.m. each night of the fair. Trains will be coming in every 12 minutes on each Branch and every 6 minutes between Forest Park-DeBaliviere and Fairview Heights.
If you do plan to park downtown or in a garage, make sure you secure all valuables out of sight. The St. Louis Police Dept. will have extra officers on duty downtown, but suggest parking in a location with supervising attendants. Who wants to deal with stolen items ever, especially on the Fourth of July?
Recommended downtown parking areas include the City Hall parking lot, Busch Stadium East and West garages, City Garage at Tucker and Clark, Spruce Street surface lots, Union Station, and Scottrade Center surface lot.
Take note of road closings. Spruce and Walnut from Broadway to Memorial and Market, Chestnut and Pine from 4th Street to Memorial will be closed from July 4 at 9 a.m. to July 8 at 9 a.m.
Now for the fun stuff...
Into running? Two runs kick off the Independence Day events with a Freedom 4 Miler at 7 a.m. and a one-mile Family Fun Run at 8:30 a.m. At this point, registration costs $35 for the 4 Miler or $15 for the Fun Run. Register online or day of beginning at 6 a.m. at Soldier's Memorial, where the races start and finish.
The 135th Annual Veiled Prophet parade starts at 10 a.m. July 4 and stretches from 4th Street and Washington down to Market. The nearly two-hour parade features floats, balloons, bands, street performances and plenty of unique costumes and showcases.
At noon this Fourth, the fair officially opens and activities for children kick into high gear. Interactive booths and cultural performances team up with prizes and special presentations for what promises to be "fun for the whole family." All these events are within the fair grounds.
Before you get too busy with the various shows and activities, the highlighted air show takes off at 12 p.m. and for a repeat performance at 3:30. You'll be guided through the show with commentary and won't want to miss the stunts!
At 2 p.m., the Fair will highlight one of its music video contest winners. The other two winners will be shown during the remaining Fair days.
Since the Fair provides , stick around for the show starting at 9:20 p.m. Stay where you are from the concert or start heading out -- you won't be able to miss the boom if you're downtown, but beware of traffic as you travel back!
July 6 and 7 Fair Festivities
If you're coming back for more or couldn't make it out July 4th, Fair St. Louis continues July 6 and 7.
At 4 p.m., the interactive and children's areas are back in business as well as a performance from the Jeremiah Johnson Band.
5 p.m. Wild Child concert
6 p.m. Another music video contest winner will be shown
7 p.m. Salute to the Troops
8 p.m. Third Eye Blind concert
9:20 p.m. Fireworks show
Saturday's activities start at noon, opening up the booths for the interactive zone and creation station.
1:30 p.m. SuperJam
3:15 p.m. The last music video contest winner
4:45 p.m. Florida Georgia Line concert
6 p.m. Colt Ford concert
8 p.m. Dierks Bentley concert
9:20 p.m. Fireworks show
Have fun, be safe and prepare ahead of time to keep hydrated and cool!
Heading downtown? Share your photos from the Fair on Patch in the Pics & Clips gallery. .