With a top-notch array of musical performers, a tribute to veterans, and an emphasis on food and drink options a cut above most fairs, this weekend’s Ballwin Days celebration promises to be an experience to remember.
Ballwin Days co-chairman Jim Lieber, who is instrumental in choosing the bands, is excited about this year’s offerings.
“It’ll be fun,” he said. “Every year I think it’s better than the year before. We’ve got some great bands. We have an awesome lineup.”
Local country-rock group the Well Hungarians kicks it off 7-11 tonight, with Night Moves, a Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band tribute group, playing 7-11 p.m. Saturday. Banjos and Brass, a Dixieland band, performs from 1:30-4 p.m. Saturday. Sunday afternoon offers a blues theme with Loran Cavano and the High Road Kicking Things from 1-2:15 p.m., the Melissa Neels Band from 2:45-4:15 p.m. and Jeremiah Johnson and the Sliders wrapping it up from 4:45-6:30 p.m.
“There isn’t another festival putting together a music lineup like we’ve got this year,” Lieber said. “Not any of them. This is a pretty strong lineup for just walking in and this being a free gig all weekend.”
Darryl Holman, the event’s other co-chair, said the free music is courtesy of Ballwin Days sponsors.
“We’re trying to upgrade the quality of the acts,” he said. “We think between the Well Hungarians and Night Moves we have done that.”
The Well Hungarians mix originals with country, rock and classic rock covers ranging from the Charlie Daniels Band to Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd. They played Ballwin Days in 2011 and were recognized as the best country group of the year in 2004, 2005 and 2007 by the Riverfront Times.
“They’re a very good band,” Lieber said. “They harmonize beautifully, so we’re having them back this year.”
Night Moves, out of Kalamazoo, MI, is an amazing tribute band.
“I gotta tell you—it sounds like the real thing,” Lieber said. “It sounds like Bob Seger is in the house. People who like Bob Seger—this is the show to come to.”
The music will stop from 9:15 to 9:30 each night for a fireworks extravaganza sponsored by West County Nissan. After the fireworks, the band will play again, with ride tickets and food and beverages also available for purchase, all continuing until 11 p.m. The festival will stay open until 11:30 p.m., an hour later than last year. In addition to providing more fun and great music, it will also ease the major traffic jam that typically follows the end of any fireworks display.
“This will kind of alleviate and maybe stop that mass exodus,” Holman said. “It’ll make it easier for everybody to get out too.”
As impressive as the musical lineup is, the co-chairs are just as enthused about the opportunity to pay tribute to our veterans. There will be a color guard presentation featuring the major branches of the Armed Services plus the at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
“That’s going to be pretty neat,” Holman said. “We’re going to have them walk up both sides of the road and meet in the middle. Then we have a soloist singing the national anthem. So we’re pretty excited about that.”
Support organizations The Mission Continues, Wounded Warrior Projects, , the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and Operation Homefront will all have a presence at Ballwin Days.
“They’re going to have booths, and they’re going to be out the entire festival with information, so people can stop by and learn more about what they do,” Holman said.
“It’s a good time to do it,” Lieber said. “We hope that Ballwin Days serves as a backdrop to put these groups in touch with the public.”
Ballwin Days will have something for everyone, including a wide assortment of carnival rides for children and adults, including a giant Ferris wheel with an impressive LED light display, an art festival with a sand sculpture competition, a five-kilometer race for runners Sunday morning, three categories of bicycle races Sunday afternoon and a weekend-long tennis tournament.
The beer and wine garden will again have an eclectic assortment of beers and wine that goes well beyond what most fairs offer, including Goose Island and Shock Top brews and limearitas, a blend of a lime-flavored malted beverage with margarita mix. Several area restaurants will be on hand serving specialties ranging from Candicci’s Italian food and Cajun gumbo and jambalaya from Avens Place Inc. to chicken kabobs, egg rolls, crab Rangoon and gyros from the Aure Foundation.
“We’re enhancing the food and beverages in every area,” Lieber said.
Traditional fair fare including funnel cakes, cotton candy, lemonade, hot dogs, burgers and more will still be available as well. There will also be contests for outstanding seniors, prettiest baby and community beautification. It’s all part of an effort to make Ballwin Days an event for everyone.
“It’s always been important for it to be a well-rounded family event,” Holman said. “So there was always a push to have a lot of different things to do. … With that many things to offer, you can draw a wider demographic of people.”
The Sunday mix of bike races and blues is representative of this approach. The races blend on- and off-road elements for beginners, intermediate and advanced riders. The bands will all play in the beer and wine garden tent to beat the heat. The Melissa Neels Band has “great lead vocals and a solid rhythm section,” and Jeremiah Johnson is “a showman—people will love him,” Lieber added.
It all adds up to a great day closing out a terrific weekend.
“The weather should be beautiful, and this is something really cool to do on a Sunday afternoon,” Lieber said. “You know, plenty of food, beer, bands—I mean, what more could you want? We can’t do it any better than what we’re doing.”
Ballwin Days is held today through Sunday at . Hours are 5-11:30 p.m. today, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, and admission is free. Tickets for rides are $1 each, $20 for 22 tickets and $25 for 30 tickets. Most rides require two to three tickets.
There is no public parking in Vlasis Park during Ballwin Days, except for vehicles with disabled plates or placards. Shuttle bus service will be available at and Olde Towne Plaza. The shuttle schedule is 4:30 p.m. to midnight Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday.