Those plein air painters will tell you that until you've tried it their way, you haven't experienced "real" painting. They're talking about painting outdoors and capturing what's right in front of you, as Monet did with his water lilies and haystacks. Plein air is a French term meaning "open air" -- outdoors, with the mosquitoes buzzing and birds twittering, the sun beating down and the light conditions changing as the artist attempts to commune with nature (and buildings and people, too, sometimes).
Dozens of would-be Monets have recently spent anywhere from a day to a week in the Missouri wine country, painting the Missouri River bluffs, grassy valleys, woods, farms and vineyards amid the changes of spring. The wineries are always looking for an extra excuse to draw visitors from St. Louis, and this weekend it's silent and live auctions of plein air paintings, made in Augusta, at the Mount Pleasant Winery (3 p.m., 5634 High Street, near Highway 94, 17 miles south of Highway 40, 636-482-WINE, www.augusta-missouri.com, free admission), with live music by Pennsylvania Slim starting at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday also feature various activities related to local history.
If you decide plein air is your style, consider the upcoming Soulard outdoor painting and drawing event sponsored by the St. Louis Watercolor Society. Imagine a thoughtful painting that captures the blue sky, a hundred-year-old red-brick home and an inebriated South Sider vomiting into a pot of geraniums. Ah, nature. --Byron Kerman
Compared to Churchill Downs, Fairmount Park is a friggin' dump. The luxury boxes hardly live up to their billing, and the main wagering pit resembles a prison commons.
That said, it's a fine place to bet on horses -- especially on Kentucky Derby Day, which the Metro East racetrack will commemorate with its only scheduled Saturday of live daylight racing all year.
Indeed, real horse fans pay attention to the horses, not whether there's complimentary Aqua Velva and a masseuse in every latrine. Derby favorites include Santa Anita Derby winner Buddy Gil, whose jockey, Gary Stevens, knows that statistics ain't worth a shot of Lasix come Derby Day. There, it's all about "winning time." (Visit www.fairmountpark.com or call 314-345-4300.) -- Mike Seely