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Marissa Coal Fest will be a gem

It usually takes eons to turn coal into diamonds.

Not in Marissa.

After just 30 years, the folks there will be celebrating the diamond anniversary of its annual Coal Fest with another gem of a celebration this weekend.

Festivities rev up at 5 p.m. Friday with a night of rides, food and live music at the Village Park, 600 S. Main St. Then, they'll dig up more fun Saturday, complete with a 6 p.m. parade followed by the Coal Fest Queen coronation.

Don't forget to visit the quilt raffle stand, where you could strike the mother lode yourself -- one of six beautiful handmade quilts. For more information, call Heather Rhodes at 295-2715.

Church picnics all over the map

Area Catholics will be celebrating a mass of fun this weekend with no fewer than four parish get-togethers throughout the metro-east.

SMITHTON: The biggest will be in Smithton, where St. John the Baptist will put on its 139th annual wingding at Turner Park. The Turners' famous fish and music by Paul Hogenmiller will get things rolling Friday night followed by an all-you-can-eat chicken dinner from 3 to 7 p.m. and dancing to the Saloonatics from 7:30 to 11:30 on Saturday.

CAHOKIA: Parents are welcome to party hearty in Cahokia when Holy Family Church hosts its two-day Back to School Carnival. Rides, food and music by Bluz Dawg will fill the grounds of the nation's oldest continuous parish from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

MARYVILLE: The cooks at Mother of Perpetual Help Church are busy whipping up their specialties for their all-you-can-eat chicken dinner and picnic from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday in the air-conditioned parish center. Games, booths and live music will add to the fun.

NEW BADEN: A 4 p.m. bluegrass Mass featuring the sounds of Hick'ry will be among the highlights Saturday during a day of activities at St. George's Church. It's your choice of chicken or roast pork from 3 to 7 p.m. followed by a night of bingo, games and music.

Dulcimers are tuning up at shrine

Centuries of musical tradition will come to life this weekend when the Gateway Dulcimer Society hosts its 12th annual Gateway Musical Festival at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

Highlighting the event will be public concerts at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Mike Anderson, Rick Thum and other masters of the mountain and hammered dulcimer, a musical staple since the middle ages, will team up with guitarist Bob Bence, autoharpist Charles Whitmer and fiddler Chris Talley Armstrong for two nights of lively folk sounds. Admission is $10 each night.

But if you're a musician yourself, you're invited to take part in one of the jams or improve your skills by taking one of the many classes offered on Friday and Saturday. Admission for the entire festival is $30-$45 per day or $40-$85 for the weekend.

A hymn sing on Sunday will cap the festivities. For more information and complete concert lineups, go to www.gatewaydulcimer.org or call 651-8271.

Threshing show in Pinckneyville

Those golden fields of wheat will take on a deeper meaning next week when the American Thresherman Association celebrates the 50th anniversary of its annual Steam, Gas & Threshing Show at the Pinckneyville Fairgrounds

This year, the show will put the spotlight on Chapter 32 of the IH Collectors as they show off International Harvester gas engines. Also on tap are daily demonstrations and displays of steam engines, wheat threshing, tractors of all makes, sawmilling, plowing and a miniature steam train for rides around the park.

The show, which opens with a horse pull Wednesday night, also will boast an antique tractor pull next Thursday night, two ITPA-sanctioned tractor pulls on Aug. 14-15 and an antique auto show and swap meet to wrap things up on Aug. 16.

Admission is $5, and food and drink will be available. For complete details, go to www.americanthresherman.com.

Venedy picnic marks 62 years

Venedy residents are ready to let down their hair Sunday during their 62nd annual picnic and homecoming.

Get ready to loosen those belts -- they'll be serving up the chicken and beef at 11 a.m. and again at 4, so if you want seconds, there will be plenty. The entertainment lineup includes Shakey Dave from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. followed by the Venedy Band at 3 and Randy Webb from 6 to 10.

All that plus bingo and kids games throughout the day.

Sues get to see dinosaur for free

A T. rex named Sue wants to meet some of her namesakes, so the St. Louis Science Center has an offer even Johnny Cash couldn't refuse:

By showing a valid ID, anyone named Sue will be admitted free to the popular dinosaur exhibit this Saturday. And, that's not all. All Sues -- and everyone else -- can take advantage of the museum's current summer combo package: two attractions (including an Omnimax film) for $10 and three for $15.

The 42-foot-long, 13-foot high Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton will be ending its encore appearance at the center on Labor Day. For more information, go to www.slsc.org.

Mary Poppins coming to Fox

With her carpetbag packed and brolly unfurled, "Mary Poppins" is set to fly into the Fox Theatre in St. Louis for a three-week visit starting next Thursday.

You won't need a spoonful of sugar to help this Tony Award-winning musical go down any easier. Straight from Broadway, Ashley Brown will star as everyone's favorite magical nanny while Gavin Lee brings his London and New York portrayal of Bert to life in the Gateway City.

The New York Daily News raves it's a "roof-raising, toe-tapping, high-flying extravaganza," and it will come to St. Louis for 22 performances from Aug. 13 to Aug. 30. Tickets are $28 to $75 and available at all MetroTix locations and through (314) 534-1111 or www.metrotix.com.

Wiggles fans can 'Go Bananas'

Youngsters are bound to "Go Bananas!" next week when the Wiggles come to St. Louis for two shows in St. Louis University's Chaifetz Arena.

In their wildest adventure yet, the preschool Fab Four from down under return with a brand-new lineup of songs, including "Monkey Man" by Australian pop star Kylie Minogue.

So, come bungle in the jungle when Captain Feathersword, Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog wiggle their way into your kids' hearts at 3 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $20-$40 and are available at all MetroTix locations and through (314) 534-1111 or www.metrotix.com.

And, to keep them occupied until the big day, steer your youngsters to www.wiggletime.com, the group's new virtual world for children.

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