Florissant MO is one of the oldest settlements in Missouri. Although no one knows when it was founded (it is assumed in the 1760s), the first civil government was formed in 1786 and originally was called “Fleurissant,” or “Blooming” in English by the French settlers (also named “un val fleurissant,” or “flowering valley”). It was once a separate town, but now is an inner suburb of the St. Louis area.
Starting in 1963, Florissant, MO has celebrated the Valley of the Flowers Festival (First Festival of Spring). This year marked the 50th Annual Valley of the Flowers Festival and I was delighted to have been able to attend 3 out of the 4 days. As this was the 50th year, the theme was “Fifty Years of Festivals” and the entire weekend was the highlight of our Spring, so much that I wanted to share it with all of you. On the happenstance that you are in this area next year, I wholeheartedly suggest you make it out for the 51st.
The Festival lasts for four days and we only caught it halfway through the 2nd, so I’m not going to be able to go through all of the weekend Events. There was so much going on in so many places that it would have been impossible. For references on the complete weekend activities, you can visit Florissant Valley of the Flowers.
We weren’t sure what to expect with our 3 year old. We’ve tried our best to go to a few carnivals and such in the years before and he hated the crowds and never wanted to do anything, but this turned out to be a remarkable carnival of fun for all of us!
On Friday night we took the boys to the Eagan’s Children’s Center of Performing Arts, where they had the Market, Plants/Flowers showcase, shops, food and music. Babaloo Music & Fun was playing and there were so many kids laughing, dancing and throwing bean bags everywhere! I began to look around me and realized that this was an honest to goodness children’s festival. Not like other places I’ve been where it’s mostly entertainment for the adults and lots of beer gardens with some face painting in the background. This was, at it’s very heart, a Family Festival. Sitting around on hay stacks were all the families, the kids dancing in the center and everyone enjoying the food that wafted up from the background.
Oh the food… it was not just carnival food. It was food prepared by the families in Florissant: Jamaican, Mexican, Cajun, Belize, Homemade Rootbeer and Parmesan Fries. A smorgasbord of delicious dinners that were decently priced. I got an entire plate of stewed chicken with rice and beans for $5 and I wound up with left overs for the next day. The family I purchased the meal from was so nice, their kids running up from the music area, baby strapped on dad’s hip. It was beautiful. Everyone loved the Parmesan Fries, which we’ve never had before! Somehow I will figure out how to make them!
We ate and we watched Judah toss the bean bag at an unexpected lady behind us and eventually found our way back home.
We headed down to the Festival at the Eagan Center again on Saturday afternoon. It was really hot, but in some way we didn’t notice it too much because we were having so much fun! Saturday was when they had out all the entertainment for kids: bouncy houses, craft tables, train rides, real pony and horse rides, clowns with balloons and a puppet show along with everything else from the previous day! We rode the train around and watched the puppet show.
And then the little tot found the clown’s car, the Recycle Cycle.
After we went through almost everything (he refused to ride on the pony), we found ourselves back under the music tent with tons of families listening to Rhythmic Circus: Feet Don’t Fail Me Now, one of the most amazing Festival Bands I’ve ever heard!
After the little tot got wired (again) on Funnel Cake, we went home and cooled off in the pool.
We did wind up visiting the other part of the Valley of the Flowers Festival on Saturday night, the actual Carnival with the rides and games that was located at the Knights of Columbus, but to be completely honest it was loud, crowded, hot, sweaty, there were chicken bones littering the ground and after walking in, we walked back out. I was really impressed by the fact that it closed at 8:30PM every night because it is a Family Festival / Carnival, but in 90′ weather and engulfed in crowds of hundreds of people and lines that could have been 30 minutes long for tickets – it just wasn’t worth it. We decided we liked the other half of the Festival better.
Saturday night, Cinco de Mayo, was spent listening to Latin music under a big tent and eating homemade Mexican food. We were surprised that the rest of the booths closed around 5pm, but Judah loved the Latin music so much that it didn’t matter. My husband, teen and I were so busy giggling about Judah’s ‘latin dancing’ that nothing else mattered. They set up a booth for Margaritas that night and it was mostly filled with older couples, with a few children. It was a cool night under the Super Moon.
Sunday marked the end of the Valley of the Flowers Festival with their 50th Annual Parade under the theme of Fifty Years of Festivals. It was really hot outside, 92′, but we found the perfect spot near the beginning of the parade and watched all the spectacles pass us.