Friday, March 13, 2009

Our Most Sophisticated Mardi Gras Parade

We must admit that we missed the 2009 Grand Parade of the Soulard Mardi Gras on Saturday, February 21. The temps were freezing and a wicked wind pushed the wind chill into the 20's.

Missing the 2009 version of the parade might be perceived as a tragedy, since it is promoted as the crown jewel of the Soulard Mardi Gras and as an extremely sophisticated parade, second only to the public displays associated with a royal coronation. To be honest, those officers and members of Mardi Gras, Inc., and the Soulard Restoration Group carry themselves as though they are royalty. We know that the rest of the world wishes they were one with this in-crowd, with The Swells of Soulard. But you aren’t, so eat your heart out.

In fact, Madame Chouteau missed the parade not because of the weather but because the parade is so pathetic.

Here are some pictures from the 2008 parade. You could park your rosin chair next to the pumps at any truck stop in Pevely or Fenton and see a better parade of trucks, and without the drunken crowds. Bring your own beads and have a ball. And the booze would be cheaper, so you could get a good buzz on and have money left over to buy a six-pack or two to drink on your drive home.

It should be mentioned that the photos were taken at the beginning of the parade and do not advantageously display the parade setting: a stretch of road whimsically and romantically titled South Broadway, a post-industrial urban boulevard, complete with potholes and eroding curbs, embroidered with a surly spectrum of gas stations, worn at the edges fast food outlets, liquor stores, vacant buildings and trash strewn lots. To hear The Swells of Soulard talk, Mardi Gras turns South Broadway into some kind of Rodeo Drive. The Grand Parade does lend a certain flavor to South Broadway. The old computer saw about garbage in, garbage out comes to mind.

Thus, it is puzzling to witness the hubbub made over the Grand Parade and Grand Parade Day.

For example, why would Loonyness Place, the newest gambling venue here in St. Louis and a source of great civic pride to people starved for signs of municipal health, associate itself with this debacle by sponsoring it? Why would a supposed sophisticated business want to stand cheek by jowl with Mardi Gras Inc. and its child, the Grand Parade, a lame come-on for a faux festival trying mightily to disguise the fact that selling over-priced booze (and as much as possible to anybody) is its reason for existence?

Is this a cool branding move? Madame Chouteau has found that one way to determine whether somebody has a semblance of good sense and effectively evaluates reality is to bring up the subject of the Grand Parade Day. Those with a life say they wouldn’t get anywhere near the event. They accurately appraise it as "just a bunch of drunks."

So here is Your Sponsorship, LP, the entertainment venue whose unique contribution to St. Louis is a tunnel from the underutilized domed football stadium (which soon will be really underutilized) to their new digs in Laclede’s Landing. A tunnel from nowhere to nothing. Why does it associate with MG Inc? Maybe it helps management feel superior. Scientists aren’t sure.

In a city insecure about its identity and direction and hosting a leadership trumpeting self-serving answers and solutions, the Soulard Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day is a symptom of the continuing malaise confronting Soulard and St. Louis. Is a Grand Drunk - enthusiastically boosted as an answer by those who know better - the preview of things to come?

More Recognition of Steve and Veronica Baetje

Steve and Veronica Baetje, who make Soulard Farmers’ Market shoppers so happy with their outstanding goat milk products, were recently recognized by the Southeast Missouri University for their entrepreneurial skills. In late February it was announced that Baetje Farms LLC was one of the recipients of the 2009 SPARK Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence from the Southeast Innovation Center.

The Baetje’s are goat farmers and artisan cheese makers. The goats are hand raised on their farm, located in Bloomsdale, MO. Steve and Veronica rely on the assistance of friends and family members to tend the goats and to produce their award-winning cheeses. Their cheeses are sold at four farmers’ markets, including at Soulard, in several restaurants and wineries and at 17 grocery stores.

The business was one of six small businesses in the tri-state region that were recognized by the Southeast University Innovation Center for growth and economic impact in the region. Each of the SPARK Award winners were graduates from a nationally recognized and high successful small business training program, titled Operation Jump-Start, created and conducted by the Innovation Center. Objective of the program is to teach entrepreneurs essential business planning and preparation skills in a non-academic setting. For additional information about the Innovation Center, visit their site at

Madame Chouteau wishes to add that Steve and Veronica and those who help them at the Soulard booth are just wonderful people. Shoppers are encouraged to stop and chat with them at the market, and to sample and purchase their products.