Monday, December 04, 2006

Missouri - Smack Dab in the Middle

As the State of Missouri Director of Tourism, I was invited to spend the 4th of July (early 1980s) in St. Louis and be part of the gigantic celebration planned on the grounds of the famous Arch - Gateway To The West.

I could relax and enjoy myself, maybe even take a few bows and not have to do any of the planning or worry about any of the details. A no-brainer. This I could do.

The people who WERE in charge of planning had their hands full. The Park Service had just planted hundreds of new sapling trees all around the grounds of the Arch and the main concern was to keep people from trampling them. Oh, and gathering together 500 Porta-Potties. And directing traffic and parking.

By the time the holiday weekend ended, more than 1,000,000 people had gathered and the young trees were just an expensive memory. Ella Fitzgerald entertained the crowd one night and Elton John another evening. I was down in the massive crowd sipping a cold Augie Busch product when Elton John took the stage.

Hundreds of thousands of sweaty beer-drinking people crammed very close together do not automatically get out of the way politely even to let a performer get to the stage so I was not surprised when a cordon of burly blue-clad St. Louis policemen formed a triangle and rammed their way through the crowd, knocking people this way and that. But where was Elton John? Running along in the midst of his protectors? What if he fell behind?! Or tripped?

As the police ringed the stage, Mr. John stepped out into the spotlight...dressed as a policeman.


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