How great is Tim Mallett? Let us count the ways: Blue Water Grill; Remy's Kitchen & Wine Bar; Ellie Forcella; Big Sky Café. Well, that's four, but wait, there's at least one more: half-price bottles of wine on Wednesday at Big Sky (with purchase of dinner; 47 South Old Orchard; 314-962-5757). That's awesome! Now every person can afford to order at least two servings of chef Randy Brobst's oh-so-rich, so cheesy, so yummy macaroni and cheese (with bacon!). It'll be like a little wine-and-cheese outdoor party with noodles in the mix. You don't have to sit outside, of course, but the patio's pretty. Just like the knowledgeable, friendly staff. Stop by and say hello: Big Sky is open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday and offers a wine tasting from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. -- perfect to plan what half-price bottle you want! The certified sommelier and mistress of wine celebrations, Joyce DeNeal, has picked out some good ones.
Thursday, June 17
Hillbillies are born, not made. The proof is at the 31st Annual Hillbilly Days celebration at Bennet Spring State Park (I-64, twelve miles west of Lebanon, Missouri; 417-532-4338), four days of hillbilly hoopla starting on Thursday, June 17, and ending Sunday, June 20. Sure, that's a bit of a drive for the typical RFT reader, but the experience is worth a little road trip. Things get under way on Thursday with a Hillbilly Kidz Karnival (they spell like rappers!) that will feature the Half-Pint Mr. and Miss Hillbilly contest for ages two to five, followed by the Little Mr. and Miss Hillbilly contest for ages six to twelve; in the thirty years of competition, has there ever been a child country enough to win in both categories? Only one way to find out. Strap Granny in her rocker, throw her on top of the truck, and get to Lebanon. Then stay for the skillet-throwing contest on Saturday; keep your head down, son. All events are free to watch (or enter).
Friday, June 18
Take a road trip this weekend to Hannibal, Missouri, and celebrate Saturday, June 19, or Juneteenth (the day that slaves were actually freed, despite the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier). The city's Parents and Youth Reaching for Educational Excellence and Cultural Togetherness (PYRFEECT) group is hosting this year's celebration, which begins Friday, June 18, and runs through Sunday, June 20. Included in the celebrations at Hannibal's Central Park (Fourth Street and Broadway) are Chicago's Jessie White Tumblers, the PYRFEECT Steppers and three-on-three basketball. Visitors can also watch a parade at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and drive on the portable go-cart track. A little danger never hurt anyone, but if that's not your speed, there will be a motorcycle show, craft and food booths, puppets and a gospel concert. So take the family, learn a little history and celebrate freedom!
Saturday, June 19
Even though the longest day of the year is actually on Sunday, June 20, that doesn't mean that you won't have enough time to celebrate the Summer Solstice on Saturday, June 19, at Onondaga Cave State Park (7556 Highway H, Leasburg, Missouri; 1-800-334-6946). This free event has all kinds of sun-centric fun including solar-cooked hot dogs, refreshing sun tea and brownies for a tasty picnic. Sun-worshippers will learn about how that mass of incandescent gas (couldn't resist that one!) powers the University of Missouri-Rolla's solar car. But all this sun fun doesn't start at the crack of dawn, oh no; it lasts from 11 a.m. until after sunset. At 8:30 p.m. take a seat in the park's amphitheater and prepare for a guided journey through outer space. Wait around after your trip to peek through the telescope at the sunless sky. Kinda lonesome up there without Sunny, isn't it?
Sunday, June 20
Basketball-loving fathers, get your kids on the phone and demand that they take you to the Hollis Thomas Celebrity Basketball Game at Harris Stowe State College (3026 Laclede Avenue; 314-652-2977) on your big day. Numerous athletes, comedians, actors and models are slated to participate in Hollis Thomas Foundation charity events throughout the weekend, among them Michael Blackson, Joe Claire, Sonja Sohn and B-Phlat. Tickets for the game are only $10, but if you're among the first 78 fathers in the building (with children in tow), you get a free pass. Doors open at 2 p.m., so if you're among the early arrivers, not only will you get in for free, you can demonstrate to your kids that showing up hours ahead of a scheduled start time ("beat the traffic," my ass; you just like controlling the schedule) pays dividends. A father's work is never done.
Monday, June 21
Every day, without fail, Ms. Day kicks Mr. Night out of the office as soon as he lights up his post-rye whiskey cigar. Is she worried about Mr. Night's decrepit health, or is it because Mr. Night smokes the cheapest (and stinkiest) of stogies? (That was rhetorical.) Well, this week things will change around here. Brennan's Café (4659 Maryland Avenue; 314-361-9444) hosts a 6 p.m. Drew Estate Cigar Sampler Session, so Mr. Night may finally learn to appreciate a fine, hand-rolled cigar. Or maybe he'll just stop wrapping fistfuls of crushed cigarettes and pipe tobacco in wads of duct tape in a misguided attempt at rolling his own cigars (they're known as "Disgustos," by the by). The cigar-sampler class is free; the peace in the office is invaluable. Smoke 'em if you got 'em, boys.
Tuesday, June 22
William Blake, poet, artist and visionary, was so against the grain that even in death, his work contains a most stubborn strain of contrariness: People who don't like poetry will often fall in love with Blake's magical words, and people who claim to not enjoy art will find themselves captivated by his artistic imagination and skillful technique. Blake's potent creative powers are married beautifully in his interpretation of the Biblical Book of Job. A proof copy of this book is now on display in Gallery 321 of the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park (314-721-0072). The free exhibit, Heaven in a Wild Flower: William Blake's 'Book of Job', offers a rare chance to experience the fantastic spiritual world of William Blake firsthand.