A packed musical roster featuring blues vocalist Kim Massie and “American Idol” alumni Nikko Smith and Aloha Mi’sho plus carnival rides and a classic car show highlight the second annual Fair U City Saturday through Monday at Heman Park.
“I’m very pleased,” said University City Mayor Shelley Welsch. “I think we have a good mix and it will encourage people from around the region to come, which is what we hope because this carnival is really about building a greater sense of community. Not only just here in University City, but in the St. Louis region.”
“We’ve assembled a solid lineup,” said Orlando Watson, the entertainment coordinator for the fair. “Different age brackets are represented, and different genres.”
The fair will be open 5-9 p.m. Saturday, with Heather Dawn, a crowd favorite from last year, kicking it off at 5:30 p.m. St. Louis native Aloha Mi’sho, a 2005 finalist on “American Idol,” sings at 7:30 p.m.
“She’s an amazing live performer,” Watson said.
All the music acts will have at least an hour on stage. Local blues legend Kim Massie gets things started at 5 p.m. Sunday.
“She’s been doing live entertainment in St. Louis for years,” said Watson, who has been a record producer since 1994. “I guess she’s a household name for most people.”
Mo’tre, an R&B group, hits the stage at 6:30 Saturday night. They frequently open for Nikko Smith, another “American Idol” finalist from 2005. Smith headlines at 7:30 Sunday night.
“He doesn’t like to be referred to as Ozzie Smith’s son, but it is what it is,” Watson said.
Smith just played The Ambassador last weekend with Dru Hill.
“Some people say he upstaged Dru Hill, which is a multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning group,” Watson said, laughing. “His live stage show is really great. He wants to be known as an R&B artist, but he has a little funk edge, a little pop edge as well. A lot of the stuff he does live—a lot of the covers he chooses—are geared toward R&B. But he does some amazing pop stuff, and some rock stuff as well. His original work—the stuff I’ve heard—is a combination of R&B and some pop stuff.”
Smith sings for a variety of audiences, including corporate gigs, performances at the St. Louis Zoo and all the area casinos.
“So he has to have a wide variety of work,” Watson said. “He’s one of the few artists around who can probably give you a 2½- to 3-hour performance if he had to. I mean, he can be on stage all day. They have a lot of material that they’ve learned over the past few years.”
FanFare, also a real crowd pleaser at last year’s fair, plays at 4 p.m. Monday. They offer Motown, folk and soft rock. The Dirty Muggs, slated for 6 p.m. Monday, is another talented group.
“The lead guitarist is from U City—Dee Dee is his name—and he’s played with everybody,” Watson said. “He’s played with Prince, he’s played with George Clinton and P Funk, Bootsy Collins and all those guys. He’s played all over the world. He’s an amazing guitarist. His style is kind of Lenny Kravitz, with the hair, the funky clothes and what not, the real hip look.”
The St. Lunatics, Nelly’s group, close it out starting at 7:30 p.m. Monday. While Nelly won’t be there, the members of the group who will perform deliver an outstanding show.
“In terms of hip hop in St. Louis, there’s really no bigger group than the Lunatics,” Watson said.
The fair will also include open mike segments Sunday and Monday afternoons.
“There’s a lot of dead time, where nothing is going on on that stage, and it would be a shame to waste it,” Watson said. “We’ve got a sound engineer there who’ll be sitting around twiddling his thumbs in the early part of the day, so (organizers) were like, ‘Well, let’s just kind of open it up and see if anybody in the neighborhood wants to just get up and do something. And a few folks have reached out to us already. Some comedian reached out to us about doing a comedy set. Somebody else wants to do a little karaoke style thing. I’m sure the calls will keep coming in over the next couple days.”
The carnival will have 12 rides—some for children, some for adults. Included in this are four classed as “mega rides,” which are for adults and typically have a greater “fright factor,” Welsch said. A number of area restaurants will be on hand, including Mandarin House, Tango’s Argentina Food, Zia’s Italian Food, Papa Tom’s Fancy Franks,, Sir’s Barbecue and , plus an assortment of typical carnival food.
A classic car show, another popular feature last year, starts with registration at 11 a.m. Sunday.
“Last year brought out some really nice cars,” Watson said. “They’re gonna take it up a notch this year. … They had everything you could think of last year—cars from the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s, hot rods. One of my favorites—a 1967 Camaro. They had Mustangs, Chevys, everything. They take those cars very seriously.”
The fair, which was two days last year, attracted an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people and went off without any incidents.
“We will have a fully staffed security force there, and they will be visible on the fairgrounds,” Welsch said. “We believe that is what keeps any potential trouble down.”
Watson is thrilled with the fair’s return to University City.
“We had a good time—I took my family out last year,” Watson said. “I’m from U City, so I went to the fair as a child. Back in the ‘80s, they had this fair every single year, and at some point they just stopped having it. Mayor Welsch decided to reactivate it last year, which is a good thing.”
Watson and Welsch would like to see the fair become a new tradition for the city.
“That’s the goal,” Watson said. “We’re already thinking in terms of keeping this thing going every single year. Every meeting we have, that’s one of the main topics. Let’s position this thing where it’ll have legs of its own. … Now that the people like it, there’s no reason to not keep having it.”
Fair U City is open 5-9 p.m. Saturday and 1-9 p.m. Sunday and Monday at , near the corner of Midland Blvd. and Olive. Because of parking constraints, organizers are encouraging people to take MetroLink to the Delmar Station and walk the short distance to the park.