So much to do, so many places to go -- and so little time. Fun-seekers will be in for one hectic weekend if they hope to crowd in even a few of these not 10, not 15, but 20 top events. A quick look in no particular order:
Festival of Faiths and Cultures
The National Shrine of Our Lady will put the world at your fingertips during its annual Festival of Faiths and Cultures from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in the Visitors Center. Enjoy music and games from around the globe, wake up your palate at the International Food Court and expand your knowledge of foreign languages during 20-minute mini-classes throughout the day. Kids will love taking part in the dance, craft and fashion workshops -- and admission is free.
Shiloh's annual homecoming will light up the weekend in more ways than one during festivities in Shiloh Park by the water tower. In addition to two days of food, rides and music, they'll set off a huge fireworks show Friday night -- or Saturday, if it rains. If you didn't trade in your clunker, you might bring it to the St. Louis Goodfellows' annual car show from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, which will award one of its trophies to the worst vehicle. Free kids activities also will be in the mix from 3-6 p.m. Saturday.
Marching band contests
The flash of brass, the pounding of drums, the thrill of precision formations -- band lovers will be in seventh heaven again Saturday during back-to-back marching invitationals at Belleville East and O'Fallon high schools. They'll step off at 10:15 a.m. at Belleville East, where 18 bands will compete in three classes; local competitors will include Alton, Edwardsville, Granite City, Mater Dei, Waterloo and Wesclin. Then at 3 p.m., eyes will turn to O'Fallon, where 19 bands will show off their new routines; up for trophies will be Mater Dei, Centralia, Highland, Alton, Edwardsville and Belleville East. Each contest will end with an exhibition by the host school band. Admission is $4-$6 at East, $3-$5 at O'Fallon and free for small kids; concessions will be available.
Usually, you wouldn't put a bunch of boneheads at the top of your must-see entertainment list. But you'll want to Friday night when the Original Boneheads -- a.k.a. The St. Louis Trombone Quartet -- open the 25th season of the St. Paul United Church of Christ Fine Arts Concert Series in Belleville. Led by Kurt Silver, this 11-year-old foursome of conservatory-trained musicians has enthralled audiences with its lighthearted approach to a repertoire of enjoyable sounds that can range from classical, jazz and swing to rock, doowop and R&B. "We want to have fun," Silver said, "and we try to make sure the audience does, too." They'll be joined by church organist Norbert Krausz at the 49-rank Schantz; admission to the 7:30 p.m. concert is by freewill offering.
Homestead Harvest Days
The war is really on to entertain visitors at the annual Homestead Harvest Days Friday through Sunday at the Latzer Homestead in Highland. This year, organizers are adding a Civil War camp to the Living History Area to join such notable mainstays as the Illinois Territorial Rangers, the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the French Marines. You can also take a tour of Pet Milk founder Louis Latzer's home, shop the flea and craft markets, watch the Parade of Power at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and load up on the homemade food. Admission is $2 on Friday (7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and $4 on Saturday (7:30-5) and Sunday (7:30-4) -- or buy a $6 pass for the weekend.
Johnny Lee in Sparta
Johnny Lee fans can look for their love in all the right places when the country music star takes the stage Friday night during the first Fall into Country Festival at the Sparta Fairgrounds. Lee rose to country music stardom with such hits as "One in a Million" and "Bet Your Heart on Me" along with his blockbuster "Urban Cowboy" soundtrack single, "Lookin' for Love in All the Wrong Places." Sponsored by Real Country 1230 WHCO, the night of music also will boast Fertile Soil, Midnight Run and Larry and Hunter Beattie. They'll start cranking it up at 6 p.m.; tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance at Alligator Music in Sparta.
Learn about Native Americans
Want to know more about Native American culture? You can go straight to the source when Cahokia Mounds puts on its American Indian Educational Days Saturday and Sunday at the state historic site in Collinsville. At least five members of a variety of Native American tribes will be on hand to demonstrate crafts, tell stories, display their dance regalia and discuss modern-day Indian issues. You'll also be able to pick up that piece of beadwork or jewelry you may have always wanted. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days; admission is free; but a donation is suggested to help preserve the site.
Bridal show at the shrine
Some lucky bride-to-be could come away with free round-trip honeymoon airfare if they walk down the aisles of the Belleville News-Democrat's Bridal Show from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight at the National Shrine of Our Ladies of the Snows in Belleville. Admission is $5 for a chance to plan your wedding in one place thanks to a hall filled with three dozen vendors, including photographers, reception centers, bakers, florists and, of course, those all-important tuxes and gowns. For more information, call Patti at 239-2572.
Popeye Picnic in Chester
Chester will be rolling out the spinach-green carpet this weekend as it celebrates its 30th annual Popeye Picnic. There's never anything wimpy about this gala that serves up three days of nearly nonstop entertainment, including a Popeye film festival on Friday and Saturday nights, a Popeye parade at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, lots of live music and rides -- and, for the first time in its history -- an all-new Popeye Picnic comic book. Chester is the hometown of E.C. "Elzie" Segar, who introduced everybody's favorite sailor man in his "Thimble Theater" comic strip on Jan. 17, 1929. For a complete rundown, go to www.popeyepicnic.com.
Troy Fall Fest
Start easing your way into the coming change of seasons at Troy's annual Fall Fest from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Tri-Township Park. Load up on the pork burgers, test your sports skills at the Wii tournament and browse through dozens of booths set up by local business and nonprofit organizations. There'll be plenty of entertainment, too, with Elizabeth Lakamp, Dawn Mushill and the Troy Community Band along with exhibitions by Prodigy Dance and McArthur's Tae Kwon Do.
Air Force bands to perform
Great music will be blowin' in the wind Sunday in Mascoutah when the Espenschied Chapel hosts a free 2 p.m. concert by the Air Force Band of Mid-America's Midwest Woodwind Quintet. From small rooms to concert halls, this fivesome keeps audiences roused with a repertoire that ranges from the Renaissance to marches to patriotic favorites. And, don't forget about the Air Force's Hot Brass Band heating things up from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight at Ever & Anon Park in Belleville in the summer's final Music in the Park event.
If pork sausage and homemade apple butter put your salivary glands into overdrive, make a beeline for the 23nd annual Biddleborn Schlachtfest (Butcher Fest) Sunday at the Trinity United Church of Christ near Marissa. For $9 ($4.50 for kids 6-12), you can stuff yourself at an all-you-can-eat pork sausage dinner and then enjoy an afternoon of games and entertainment by Don Etling, the Gordons and Evergerds and the Ainad Brass Band. They're setting a place just for you from 11 to 5. To find the church, take Illinois 4 south from St. Libory or north from Marissa, turn east at Heintz Road and follow the signs.
Holy Family Homecoming
Holy Family in Cahokia will celebrate the return to class this weekend with its third annual Catholic Schools Homecoming Weekend. They'll get things rolling Friday with a night of gambling and dancing to Bluz Dawg from 7 to 11 p.m., along with a Mexican buffet from 5 to 7 p.m. in the school. Then, after a 4 p.m. Mass in the Log Church on Saturday, you'll have your choice of a chicken and beer dance at the Knights of Columbus Hall (tickets are $20 each) or an evening of bingo in the Holy Family gym starting at 7.
Art and wine festival
Art, wine and gourmet food -- get ready for a leisurely decadent weekend when the Clinton County Art Guild stages its third annual Art and Wine Festival at the Carlyle Lake Visitors Center. Sample the best from 10 Southern Illinois/Missouri vintners -- including Springers Creek in Edwardsville -- while enjoying the sounds of the Folks N Blues Grass Band and Lucky Old Sons from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and the Soulard Blues Band from 1-5 p.m. Sunday. You'll also enjoy a host of local artists, including a 15-year-old scarf designer. For $10, you'll get an etched glass and tasting tickets; it's $3 for nondrinkers aged 10 and up. And, if you're in the area, don't forget to check out the Carlyle Street Fair Friday night and Saturday.
Catholic parish picnics
Those Catholic parish picnics continue at full tilt this weekend with two more big metro-east affairs. One of the granddaddies of the popular get-togethers will be at St. Joseph's in Freeburg, which will dish out fish and Johnny Guitar starting at 4 p.m. Friday, before coming back on Saturday with a night of chicken and quilt bingo. In Belleville, everybody will be stirring from 3 p.m. to midnight Friday -- including the mice -- at Our Lady Queen of Peace. Mouse races will make their debut at this year's fest to spice up an evening of chicken, bingo, rides and dancing to the Saloonatics (8 to midnight).
Ultimate Women's Showcase
They'll try to make women feel like queens for the day at the Ultimate Women's Showcase this weekend at the Belle Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville. From 10 to 5 Saturday and 10 to 4 Sunday, enjoy a day filled with information on beauty, health care, finance, fashion and cooking and plenty of shopping. Admission is $3. And, here's a bonus: From 8 to 5 Saturday, the Expo Building also will be home to a children's consignment sale filled with toys, furniture, baby supplies and clothing. Whatever's left will be half-price from 9-11 a.m. Sunday.
A first-ever fiddlers frolic by metro-east bluegrass king George Portz will crown the seventh annual Lewis and Clark State Historic Site music festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in Hartford. It's a day of historical sounds that also will include the Alton Dulcimer Players, award-winning composer-artist Bradford Smith and the bone-playing Scott Miller. It's all free, too; the site is at New Poag Road and Illinois 3.
TOCO Family Festival
They'll be going loco over TOCO again Friday and Saturday at Camp Ondessonk in the beautiful Shawnee National Forest. It's another 48 hours of outdoor fun as Kim Vrooman's TOCO -- Tapestry of Community Offerings -- puts on its annual Family Festival while raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. There will be loads of music, swimming, fishing, hiking and canoeing along with food, a kids party zone and an artists caravan. Tickets are $45 each for adults, free for kids, and you do need advance reservations for tree-house and family camping. For information, go to www.tocofestival.com or call 580-0303.
Two days of Trentonfest
A solemn start will quickly give way to high times at the Trentonfest this weekend in Trenton Community Park. To remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois State Police, will take center stage during opening ceremonies at 5:30 p.m. Friday. After that comes two days crammed with fun, including a bike ride starting at 7 Saturday morning, a vintage tractor show at noon Saturday, the Trentonfest Parade at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and dancing to live bands until midnight both nights.
Big guns at Fort de Chartres
They'll be taking a shot in the dark, so stay out of the way when a nighttime cannon firing highlights the Fort de Chartres annual artillery safety school Saturday and Sunday. You're welcome to watch the activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, but you'll really want to have your cameras (and a flashlight) ready starting at 7 p.m. Saturday when they load and fire the fort's 6-pound cannon. It's free and open to the public.