You Had Me at the First Cake!
by Chelle Dohrmann
I am a cakehunter. I have been busy (too busy?!) celebrating St. Louis's 250th birthday throughout the year, chasing down the stl250 birthday cakes placed at significant locations around the city and surrounding counties to mark this historic occasion.
Cakehunting by the numbers:
1764: The year the city of St.Louis was founded and the reason for all this fun - Happy 250th Birthday!
257: Total number of cakes seen (250 original + 6 bonus cakes + "Goldie," the small prototype used to develop the larger cakes)
278: Number of days I spent "on the hunt." From my first cake sighting (3/29/14 - Citygarden) and my final cake (1/1/15 Reunion Cake) at the Nine Network Plaza on New Year's Day.
17: The number of local artists who worked on "Reunion Cake," the final cake unveiled at First Night in Grand Center, This cake has small snippets of many of the other cakes and can still be seen on display at the Missouri History Museum until February 15, the final day for the 250 in 250 Exhibit.
1555: Number of photos taken, many of them selfies! (Thank goodness we are now in a digital era!) My favorite phrase was "No picture of the cake, No count the cake!" So every step of the way was fully documented.
2650: Estimated number of miles driven (Yowza! And that is probably on the lowside...)
$50,296: Total amount of money raised in auction of 84 of the cakes, to be put toward the development of the 1764 Society and Founders Plaza, which will be located near the statue of Pierre Laclede that stands west of St. Louis City Hall (and I know you're wondering - sadly NO, I am not the proud owner of a 4' tall fiberglass birthday cake, although it was seriously considered...)
6: The number of willing (and not always so willing) regular participants in my hunt. Many thanks to my hubby, son, daughter, mom, sister and friend Melissa for joining me throughout this journey!
I am a competitive person by nature. And I was determined to finish. But it wasn't a race for me to beat others; I actually had mixed feelings at the end. Proud to be done and having seen every cake possible, yet a little sad that it was over, and I can't quite put my finger on why. I literally spent 9 months of my life on this journey (yes, like having a baby!), sometimes on my own, but much of it with family and friends and I wouldn't trade that time for anything! But I was absorbed in learning more about this city I love and its history.
Without the hunt...I might never have seen so many cool places that I had never been to before and some I hadn't even heard of previously - I am a lifelong St. Louisan, yet I had never been to Fort Belle Fontaine and Columbia Bottom (beautiful, and I grew up in North County!), Fairgrounds Park (the bear pit "castle'!), The World's Largest Catsup Bottle (It's a water tower, AND it's for sale!), the Robert Wadlow Statue (the Alton Giant was 8'11"!), the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos (Wow!), the Mercantile Library (seriously, GO see this place, right on UMSL's campus!) and the Compton Hill Water Tower (one of 3 such towers in STL, and of only 7 in the entire US) along with countless churches, courthouses and historical buildings!
Without the hunt...I might have never gotten around to taking my kids to Cahokia Mounds, Mastodon State Park, Meramec Caverns or Malcolm Martin Memorial Park with the giant geyser across the Mississippi. Or taken them to shows at the Fabulous Fox Theatre or Powell Hall.
Without the hunt...we might have never known just how good a Chuck-a-Burger is, or the yumminess of the mile-high pie at the Blue Owl, or the oh-so-goodness of a concrete at Ted Drewes (okay, we DID already know that, but what an excuse to go back!). We got pizza at Rigazzi's, shakes at Crown Candy Kitchen and cookies at Sweetology.
Without the hunt...my family might never have built bridges out of wooden blocks at St. Charles County Heritage Museum at Heritage Park; they might not know that the Wainwright Building downtown was one of the country's original skyscrapers; they might never have set foot in the room where the Dred Scott trial was held at the Old Courthouse or learned at the Jackie Joyner Kersee Center that she won six Olympic medals. My kids might not have stood on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, peering over looking for turtles with their grandma, or seen the house she grew up in down near The Hill.
Without the hunt...well....we wouldn't now have all these memories. And you just can't quantify what that means in numbers.
So while the "Official" cake hunt has come to an end. I encourage you to get out and use this list as inspiration of places to go with your own families: Find out more here. You might learn something along the way make a few memories of your own!
Chelle Dohrmann is a mother of two, a lifelong St. Louisan, proud "caker," and the St. Louis Editor of KidsOutAndAbout.com.