Published: Nov/Dec 2003

The Gateway Arch (above) was built to honor Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a continental United States. /St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission photo. William Clark’s Journal (below) will be on view during “Lewis and Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibit” at the Missouri History Museum. /Missouri History Museum photo

Meet me in St. Louis
City’s role in opening up the West is focus of activities

By Barbara Gibbs Ostmann

The famous tune sung by Judy Garland, "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis," will take on new life in 2004. St. Louis is planning a year of celebrations to highlight three important anniversaries–the centennials of the 1904 World’s Fair in Forest Park, the first Olympic games held in the United States and the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition that opened the American West.

Since 1996, St. Louis 2004, a civic organization, has been working on this anniversary year, planning events and coordinating activities with other organizations.

"Celebrate 2004 will recognize our region’s history, and, more importantly, celebrate our recent accomplishments as part of the St. Louis 2004 movement," said John Baricevic, member of St. Louis 2004 Executive Committee and chairman of the St. Clair County (Illinois) Board.

Forest Park Forever

Activities will kick off with a grand New Year’s Eve celebration on Dec. 31 in Forest Park, organized by St. Louis 2004. The festivities at ’04 Eve will include a giant Ferris wheel, similar to the one that wowed crowds at the 1904 fair. In addition, a performance by LUMA, featuring artists costumed in light, and special activities at several cultural institutions within the park are planned. Admission is free, although there is a small charge for some activities.

Forest Park officially opened in 1876. At 1,370 acres, it is one of the largest urban parks in the United States.

To prepare for this anniversary year, some $90 million has been spent for new roads, bridges, lakes, golf facilities, paths and a visitor center. On a normal year, the park attracts 12 million visitors; the numbers in 2004 are expected to surge.

“Forest Park Forever is pleased to partner with St. Louis 2004 on Celebrate 2004. ’04 Eve will not only be an amazing kickoff to the celebration, but it also will showcase Forest Park’s wonderful cultural institutions and all the exciting Forest Park renovations designed to create a total park experience through a variety of natural, cultural, educational and recreational facilities, opportunities and amenities,” said Jim Mann, president and executive director of Forest Park Forever.

Meet me at the fair

The 1904 World’s Fair celebrated the centennial of President Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France and the exploration of the territory by Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery.

For seven months, more than 20 million people traveled to St. Louis for the fair, then hailed as the greatest of all world fairs. People from dozens of nations re-created their art and culture, entertained and sold their wares. The fair popularized ice cream cones, iced tea, hot dogs, hamburgers, ragtime music, and set trends and fashions for years afterward.

The World’s Fair Centennial exhibition will open in early May at the Missouri History Museum (www.mohistory.org, 314-746-4599) in Forest Park.

Olympic opportunities

Forest Park and nearby Washington University hosted the 1904 Summer Olympic Games, the first held in the United States.

Carrying on that tradition, the U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials will be April 3 and 4 at Washington University’s Francis Field, and the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials will be June 9–13 in St. Peters at the Rec-Plex.

In addition, St. Louis will be one of four U.S. cities on the Olympic Torch Relay route as the flame heads to Athens, Greece, for the 2004 Summer Games. An Olympic Centennial Celebration is being planned for June 17 in Forest Park (www.stlouissports .org, 314-992-0687).

Lewis and Clark legacy

Throughout the year, the Lewis and Clark theme will resound in the area. Most cultural institutions will have themed events or exhibits. However, the signature exhibit is "Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition," from Jan. 14 to Sept. 6 at the Missouri History Museum. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see expedition artifacts and documents–including Clark’s journal–that have not been displayed in one place since 1806. For ticket information, call (314) 454-3150.

The Gateway Arch (www.gatewayarch .com, 314-982-1410), officially named the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, was built to honor Jefferson’s vision of a continental United States and to symbolize the gateway to the American West. In the Museum of Westward Expansion under the Arch, special exhibits explore the role the St. Louis area played in launching the Corps of Discovery.

“I think the 2004 celebrations are a wonderful chance to remind people why the Arch is in St. Louis in the first place, as a tribute to Jefferson and the opening of the American West,” said Nancy Milton, vice-president of communications for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission.

The official transfer of the Upper Louisiana Territory from Spain to France to the United States took place in St. Louis on March 9 and 10, 1804. The Louisiana Purchase Three Flags Festival will be held March 12–14 at the Arch to mark the event (http://louisianapurchase.umsl.edu, 314-516-7246).

View the Louisiana Purchase Transfer Document at the Missouri History Museum in a room adjacent to the Lewis and Clark exhibition. Lewis’ signature is on the document.

Summer in the city

Celebrate 2004 is about more than remembering history. From July 15 to Aug. 29, the St. Louis Riverfront will be the place for food and fun, with Eats Bridge and River Splash.

Each weekend, historic Eads Bridge will be transformed into Eats Bridge–a sit-down, al fresco dining destination serving St. Louis-style favorites, along with great views of the St. Louis skyline. The riverfront will come alive with River Splash, a multimedia display of fireworks, lasers, video images and sound. The shows will be projected.The best seating for River Splash will be on the Monumental Feature, the realization of Arch designer Eero Saarinen’s vision for a "monumental stairway" leading to the Arch. Admission to River Splash is free; the views from Eats Bridge are free, too, but you’ll need to pay for your meals. The events are organized by St. Louis 2004.

"It is meaningful to us that the anniversary events remind people what an interesting role St. Louis has played in the history of the United States," said Nancy Milton. "This really is one of the great, unique spots in the country."

Barbara Gibbs Ostmann is a contributor from Gerald, Mo., and author of "St. Louis World’s Fare: Recipes, Legends and Lore from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition."

Before you go

For more information, contact:

  • St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, 1-800-916-0040, or visit online at www.explorestlouis.com;
  • St. Louis 2004, (314-436-2004), www.celebrate2004.org;
  • National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, www.lewisandclark200.org;
  • Forest Park Forever, (314) 367-7275, www.forestparkforever.org.

To plan your trip to St. Louis, stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, TripTiks and TourBooks.


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