The SAINT LOUIS ZOO has plenty to be excited about, including the $15-million polar bear habitat, which is set to open in 2015. Construction on the 40,000-square-foot McDonnell Polar Bear Point began last month. When completed, it will more than double the space of the zoo’s old polar bear habitat, and house an adult male and female bear, as well as a couple of cubs. Among the features of the new space is a seamless transition from sea to coastline to land, allowing the bears to swim, dive, rock-climb and dig in the sand. There also will be a 22-foot visitor viewing window and an Arctic cave room for viewing the bears as they swim in a 13-foot-deep pool. The habitat also includes a state-of-the-art life support system that recirculates and treats exhibit water, saving the zoo some 2.3 million gallons of water each year.

The seventh annual Athena Awards hosted by the HELLENIC SPIRIT FOUNDATION has announced its 2013 recipients. JOAN BERKMAN, AMELIA BOND, TERRI GRIEGE, MARY ELIZABETH GRIMES, LINDA HALL, TISHAURA JONES, LAVERNE LORENZINI, VIRGINIA MCDOWELL, KATHLEEN RATCLIFFE, DONNA WILKINSON, SONIA ZAMANOU-ERICKSON and TERRI ODOM are cited for exemplifying the Hellenic spirit through their service to the community. “Our Hellenic heritage guides our relations with other people in our society,” says foundation chair NICK KARAKAS. “It is a distinct and unique value system which has endured and transcended time and boundaries of war, hatred and narrow-mindedness.” The women will be feted at a Friday, Nov. 15, luncheon at the Missouri Athletic Club. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Military Veterans Program at UM-St. Louis. For tickets, call 447-0290 or email

A unique photography, mixed media and video exhibit by two local artists is coming to the Regional Arts Commission next week. Origins: Natural Selections features the photography of LARRY EMERSON and the digital technology artwork by BYRON SLETTEN, and explores the beauty that exists within the mysteries of the world around us. An opening reception will be held Friday, Oct. 25, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the RAC Gallery on Delmar Boulevard. The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, runs through Dec. 21.

The personal photographer for late British couture designer ALEXANDER MCQUEEN will be in St. Louis for a book-signing this weekend. ANNE DENIAU, a member of McQueen’s inner circle for more than a decade, has documented more than 3,000 photographs of the designer’s life and work in her book, Love Looks Not With the Eyes. She’ll be making a personal appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue on Saturday, Oct. 19, beginning at 11 a.m.

Sleigh bells ring…St. Louis artist and entrepreneur MARY ENGELBREIT has been announced as the honorary grand marshal for this year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The 29th annual event, hosted by Christmas in St. Louis and presented by Ameren Missouri and the City of St. Louis, takes place Nov. 28. It will kick off at 8:45 a.m. at the corner of Washington Avenue and Fourth Street downtown.

You can’t have Thanksgiving without pie: OPERATION FOOD SEARCH has launched Operation PhilanthroPIE, a campaign to help feed needy families this Thanksgiving. In partnership with RIVER CITY CASINO, home-style pumpkin, apple and pecan pies baked by executive chef (and LN Cooks columnist) JOHN JOHNSON will be available for sale with proceeds to benefit Operation Food Search. Pie orders ($20 each for pumpkin and apple, $25 for pecan) will be taken from Oct. 24 through Nov. 14, and will be available for pick-up the day before Thanksgiving. For more information, call 726-5355 or visit