The Taste of St. Louis has become the biggest annual event in St. Louis.
Perhaps Soulard Mardi Gras tops it for a one day party, but over a three day span, ToSTL welcomed over 300,000 people to downtown this weekend and now includes huge promo pieces from Charter (Center Stage) Ford and the Missouri Lottery.
If this is going to be our thing, St. Louis, we've got to start doing it much, much better.
I'm giving this post a huge preface... I want to like ToSTL. BUT over the 6 aggregate hours of time I was in the event's footprint, it was almost like the organizers had set every single thing up to be as annoying as possible.
These 5 things need to be fixed by 2013, or I'm out. I don't think I'll be the only one.
1) If we're celebrating food, how about I get some fucking food.
Boasting over 200 'tastes', there were tons of things to hypothetically chose to eat. Unfortunately, every single line was like we were waiting for Mr. Freeze at Six Flags. Lining all the booths along market, the din of people waiting in line, mixing with people just browsing, mixing with the people tying to move large distances, made for ass to crotch shuffling and a 'fuck it, i'll just pound this thing I would normally savor so I can stop getting bumped into'.
Solution? Spread. It. Out. If this event needs to be downtown, then close off another 4-6 blocks and spread the tents out the entire footprint. If you're not tied to downtown, then get this out to Forest Park.
2) 300,000 people. 50 pissers.
Ok, maybe 150 or 250. But only one dedicated area that had 'facilites'. By Saturday night I stepped into a stall that was full. Not like kind of full, but piss and crap flowing over the edge. The next one over had a little room. But the once daily emptying of the port-o-potties isn't good enough. In fact, a lady standing outside summed it up best: "You know they're bad, when drunk guys won't piss in them."
Solution? Get more. And service them multiple times per day. It's pretty simple.
3) Hold vendors accountable.
Granted, it's hard for some of these restaurants to manage the scope of what they're getting themselves into. But you know what I don't want to hear when I get to the front of the line? That you're out of X. Other places like Pappy's BBQ just hung 'Sold Out' signs up.
Solution? Don't just sell the vendors a booth... prep them. How much food they'll need. How much staff is enough. What the proper price points are. Letting them go at this without being prepared drags everyone else down.
4) "I'll save the world another day."
That's what I overheard right before a guy threw his trash on the street. He did try to find a trash can, but the STL city ones were covered by plastic bags, funneling people to 4 (?) 'greening centers' where trash could be recycled. I hate to be dramatic, but the location and availability of the greening centers were enough to make a environmentalist litter.
Solution? WAAAAY more trash receptacles. Like way more. Between plates and forks and napkins and cups, food produces a bunch of trash. I appreciate the green effort, but all of those bags are sorted later anyway, so collect and sort everything at once. Don't funnel everyone to 4 stations.
5) Go cheap.
Beer? $7. This one isn't changing, but damn. $7? That's pretty damn steep for a street festival.
Solution? Lower prices. Even just a little.
Other highlights: Charter Center Stage videography. Don't know who was shooting The All-American Rejects, but that was some seriously professional concert shooting. The guy making waffles. Those waffles were the shit.
Other lowlights: Strollers. Bring the kids during the day when there is more room. But from 5p on, it's packed, so don't be the guy or girl pushing a kid around.