This week marks 134 years worth of celebrations at the infamous Fair St. Louis. Fully equipped with fireworks, live music, local vendors, performances and the annual Veiled Prophet Â parade, the fair commemorates Americaâ€™s birthday in the center of the downtown area in style. Kicking off southbound at 4th and Washington Avenue this Wednesday July 4th, the parade is featuring over 130 units and spanning 1.5 miles across the downtown area. The fair will run from July 4-7 with daily fireworks displays and live music featuring headliners HEART, Third Eye Blind and Dierks Bentley. This yearâ€™s parade theme is â€œAll around the worldâ€ and represents the internationality of a riveting Midwest city. Â
The centrality of St. Louis lends the city to being a culmination of American charm and an invaluable icon in the history of the United States. Fair St. Louis is one of the longest standing fairs in the history of our country and its roots extend deep into the soil of St. Louis history.
On March 20, 1878, Charles Slayback and 19 other influential businessmen met at the Lindell Hotel to discuss how to revamp the local St. Louis economy.
As the attendance at the Agricultural and Mechanical fair declined, the city suffered from the loss of tourism revenue the fair had generated. The gentlemen decided that they needed to establish a new soiree for the city to stimulate economic growth. Slaybackâ€™s brother, Alonzo, had a spark of inspiration from â€œThe Veiled Prophet of Khorassanâ€, a poem from Lala Rookh by Thomas Moore. The character of the Veiled Prophet is loosely based on the stories of a religious heretic named Hashim who was known for being a trickster and always wearing a veil over his face. The businessmen appropriated this character and reinvented him as the symbol of benevolence and good will. Soon, a secret organization formed called â€œThe Mysterious order of the Veiled Prophetâ€
This organization funds the Veiled Prophet parade, the opening for Fair St. Louis every 4th of July for the last 30 years. Their contributions to St. Louis include various non-profit fundings as well as donations to the cityâ€™s architecture such as Overlook stage on the riverfront and the Grand Staircase connecting the Arch to the riverfront.
Controversies over this organization and the festival have rose and fell over the years between various groups questioning the civil integrity of the group. The debates over the years led to changing the name of the parade from The Veiled Prophet Parade to the VP Fair, to the current name: Fair St. Louis. Ultimately, the VP organization has been cast as a lead contributor to St. Louis and been a large icon in the cityâ€™s history and overall development.
This yearâ€™s theme of â€œAll around the worldâ€ asserts the style of modern cities as globalized urban centers that can throw an explosive birthday party.