The foundation behind Fair St. Louis

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Fair St. Louis offers those in attendance the opportunity to be fully engaged in the nation’s patriotic summer ritual. While the celebration draws people from miles away, organizers carefully look for ways to give back to the host city.

The Fourth of July celebration, touted as the nation’s biggest birthday party, returns to Forest Park, a crown jewel among regional landmarks. This annual event is managed by the Fair St. Louis Foundation.

Todd Schnuck, Chairman of the Fair St. Louis Foundation, says most people would be amazed to know how the fair comes together.

“It's totally volunteer driven and it's totally privately funded. It’s funded by the corporations and other members of the community,” he said.

Schnuck says the best part of planning this party is knowing the community is gifted in multiple ways. The Foundation funds major improvements, like lighting the Eads Bridge and St. Louis City Hall. Over the past 26 years the foundation has given away over $1.5 million. Charities and community groups can raise funds for their individual needs through food and beverage sales.

Bill Gilbert coordinates neighborhood volunteers for a booth run by Tower Grove East Charities. The Fair has been the group’s major fundraiser since 1981, the first year of the fair. The organization has never missed a Fair St. Louis. Gilbert says he’s happy with the location assigned to his group.

“We’ll be just to the right of the stage. Anybody walking in from over by the History Museum or the Zip Line, will come in and walk right by our booth,” Gilbert said. “And anybody sitting on the hill can walk right down and see us and buy beer and soda from us.”

Three days of music, food and fun creates a lot of good will and funds for community projects according to Schnuck.

“We calculate that those charities, over the time the fair has been in existence, have brought back to their own organizations, $2.5 million,” he said.

Wrought iron signs were created to welcome people to the Tower Grove East neighborhood. According to Gilbert, there are other needs.

“We support a lot of non-profits around our neighborhood, the Five Star Senior Center, Tower Grove Park, The Stray Dog Theatre, which does after school activities for kids and The International Institute,” Gilbert said.

Fair St. Louis is described by Schnuck as a party put on by a group of committed citizens, trying to make St. Louis a better place to live. If you're thinking about visiting Fair St. Louis, "America's biggest birthday party,” it officially opens Sunday at 1 p.m.