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Metro St. Louisans Weigh In On Relocating Summer Events to Chesterfield

Chesterfield and St. Louis
(Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio)

The St. Louis Bluesweek Festival and the Budweiser Taste of St. Louis are on the move, and people throughout the metro area have been quick to share their reactions.

Taste of St. Louis and Bluesweek left many regulars reeling after organizers announced that this year both will be held in Central Park and the Chesterfield amphitheater.

 Bluesweek organizer Mike Kociela, in an interview with the Post-Dispatch, cited “financial considerations” for the decision to abandon the previous site near the Soldiers' Memorial and Peabody Opera House on Market Street in downtown St. Louis.

K. Sonderegger, who serves along with Kociela as co-director of the Taste event, has said the Chesterfield location allows the Taste of St. Louis to have a more regional impact.

Admission to Bluesweek, which is scheduled to run on May 24 and 25, is $10 for general admission and $25 for "premium" seating. There was no general admission fee when the event was held downtown.

Taste is scheduled for Sept. 19-21. Ticket pricing for the amphitheater shows was not yet available.

The decision to move the two events to Chesterfield doesn’t bother David Altman, 53, who lives in the west county suburb that lies about 22 miles from the heart of St. Louis. In fact, Altman sees several positives.

“More comfortable seating and likely better sound venue for music,” he wrote in response to a query for St. Louis Public Radio that asked what he liked best about the new locale. Also, he wrote, parking would be easier.

Despite those advantages, however, Altman added that "producers of the event will have to work hard to provide the more exciting ambiance and vibe that the urban city setting provides."

On the other side of the debate is Shawn Maher of St. Louis. The 31-year-old wrote: “I'm flat out not attending what used to be my favorite festival.”

Credit Provided
Shawn Maher

“I'm a St. Louis resident, and I don't want to contribute to the economic and civic divide between St. Louis and the county by helping to support a festival that is removing tax revenue and support from St. Louis to a more affluent neighborhood in the tradition of the city's white flight. After making so much progress in recent years revitalizing the city, this is a move to negate so much of the positive progress.”

Maher added: ‘“I have always attended the Taste of St. Louis since moving here, and, aside from the assortment of available food from some of the city's best restaurants, I was drawn to the location. It's only fitting to have a festival celebrating such a storied city nestled in the center of some of its most iconic structures and buildings.

“The parking may not be as accessible, but it seems like parking at a Metrolink commuter lot and taking the train only even more greatly enhances the St. Louis experience, and it encourages a stroll through downtown St. Louis.”

On the fence is Jeff Graves, 49, of Fenton, who said he has attended Bluesweek in the past, and is at least considering following the event to its new location.

“At least Bluesweek is still on,” he wrote. Still, he fears something will be missing.

“St. Louis has a good vibe — a diverse, street-wise crowd. It just felt cool to be in that mix."

Graves also wondered about the choice of musical performers:

“Who is going to choose talent for these big events? Is it going to be a pop lineup that you can hear anywhere else? There are people in St. Louis that really care about/know music (such as KDHX). Will they have any input?

Others who responded were more explicit in offering reasons they are unlikely to attend the events in Chesterfield. Among them:

Antona Smith, Kirkwood

Credit Provided
Antona Smith

"The best thing about downtown was the energy; the ability to walk; the crowds; the view of the Arch and again, the energy.

“This smells of money and the suburbanites wanting what the city has without the ‘inconvenience’ of coming to the city. Full disclosure — I do live in an inner belt suburb in west county, however, I would be equally as against the idea if they moved it from St. Louis to my suburb.”

James Roseberry, St. Louis

“I live in the city, so the location is great. I've biked to both events. Also, it’s close to public transportation and plenty of parking.

“Downtown is the 'heart of the region' and they are trying to rip it out. Especially 'Bluesweek' with the attempt to have the National Blues Museum and Hall of Fame downtown.”

Derek Bergman, St. Louis

Two years ago, it was great to be able to tour the Peabody (Opera House). Downtown is beautiful and should be shown off more.

Moving to Chesterfield, he wrote, “cuts off public transportation to the event. A 45-minute bus ride at the end of the Metro line will not work. Moving it away from Illinois is also a poor decision. Illinois will not follow the event to Chesterfield.”

Jerry Benner, Ferguson

St Louis is the center of our area — historically and culturally. Chesterfield has no blues history and mainly has chain-dining places. History and culture are zero.”

Hannah Shanks, St. Louis

What she liked about the St. Louis location: “Downtown backdrop; free admission; traffic from sports games, intermingling with residents from all over; destination for friends/family from Metro East; easy Metrolink access; minutes' walk to Washington Avenue and Laclede's Landing; biking distance from our home.” 

What she dislikes about the Chesterfield location: “No Metro access; no foot traffic from sporting events; cost of admission; not easily accessible; not bikeable.”

“I also have a large problem with an already-profitable event, with staff on record about their marvelous relationship with the city and the city's role in its success, moving its business to a second-ring suburb. If folks want to benefit from the cultural events that cities create, they should be willing to locate in the city.”

Robert Winkelmann, Pacific

For Bluesweek in St. Louis, “the stage was always set up in the shadow of the Arch, City Hall and the history that is downtown. It's also walking distance from a ton of attractions. I can attend a Cardinals game, then, without moving my car, I can walk right over to Bluesweek.

I live out in west county, and Chesterfield is the worst location they could have chosen. It's a hassle to get to. I-64 is a headache to drive on at any time and the venue is very small with no logical parking. $25 for a seat also seems quite insane.”

Inform our coverage:

This report contains information gathered with the help of our Public Insight Network. To see responses from more PIN sources, please click here.  And to learn more about the network and how you can become a source, please click here.

Outreach specialist Linda Lockhart has been telling stories for most of her life. A graduate of the University of Missouri's School of Journalism, she has worked at several newspapers around the Midwest, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as a reporter, copy editor, make-up editor, night city editor, wire editor, Metro Section editor and editorial writer. She served the St. Louis Beacon as analyst for the Public Insight Network, a product of Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media that helps connect journalists with news sources. She continues using the PIN to help inform the news content of St. Louis Public Radio. She is a St. Louis native and lives in Kirkwood.