Wednesday July 20 Tumbling tumbleweeds: Ranger Doug, Too Slim and Woody Paul, better known as Riders in the Sky, will dismount in Denver tonight for a children's concert sure to please every buckaroo and buckarette in the house--including the grown ones. The trio, famous for its rope tricks, loping humor, yodeling and Western harmonizing--as heard on National Public Radio and seen on their now-defunct Saturday morning television show--will perform at 7 at the Denver Botanic Gardens outdoor amphitheater, 1005 York St. Don't be surprised if some lucky little cowpokes get to join them on stage for a song. Tickets are $12 ($10 members); call 777-7372.

Cholo solo: The adventurous Colorado Dance Festival doesn't limit itself. Along with the monthlong slate of dance showcases scheduled, the fest also features the performance artist George Emilio Sanchez in his cathartic solo piece El Cacique Cholo in the Land of the Nepantla/Chief Half-Breed in the Land of In-Between. Sanchez, who also will lead a pair of festival workshops later in the week, blends searing satire with issues of cultural identity. The work can be seen at 8 tonight or tomorrow night in the Irey Theater, University Theater Bldg., CU-Boulder campus. To reserve tickets, $12 to $15, call 442-7666.

Future shock: If you think only of Chaplin, Keaton or Pickford, et al., when the silent film era is mentioned, you're in for a surprise when you see the early, futuristic Fritz Lang classic Metropolis, being shown tonight at 8 at Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Rd. in Boulder, as part of this month's silent film series. The flick's special effects long may have been left in the dust, but the content remains fascinating, shadowy and expressionistic. Admission is $2 ($1 children); for details call 440-7666.

Thursday July 21 Street corner serenade: Just when you thought the street-entertainment pickings on the 16th Street Mall were getting slim, the Downtown Denver International Buskerfest returns for a free four-day circus on the mall's street corners. In tow for the second annual festival will be an international roster of unusual performers, including Artis the Spoonman (recently featured in the Soundgarden video Spoonman), Brooklyn's lightning-fast Double Dutch Divas, Caribbean contortionist i-bash-i, stilt dancer Madame Buskerfly and a slew of others--even some from around here. Audiences can catch the acts from 11 a.m. until dusk at nine BuskerStops along the mall, accessible by mall shuttle or by foot (the best way to see the strolling jugglers, acrobats and utter fools freelancing between the stops). For more information call 634-4060.

Free for the asking: This seems to be the date for free cultural events as the city dishes up not one, but two wonderful evening diversions. In City Park, baseball fans and music lovers both will be sated when the Colorado Symphony Orchestra performs at 7. Rockies manager Don Baylor will receive a quick lesson from CSO conductor Marin Alsop before leading the orchestra in a sing-along rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," followed by works of Dvorak and Saint-Saëns--perhaps more ably conducted by maestro Markand Thakar--and a finale with the local steel drum band Pan Jumbies. Call 986-8742. Meanwhile, not far away in Civic Center Park, Theatre in the Park begins its season at 8 with a free performance of Oli-ver! by the Compass Theatre. Picnickers will have the opportunity to enjoy the musical nightly through Saturday; future offerings include next weekend's The Odd Couple and performances by the Ballet Arts Theatre with flamenco guitarist Rene Heredia August 4 through 6. Call 770-2106.

Friday July 22 We are PHAMALy: Another production of Fiddler on the Roof may seem a mundane venture, but not when the thirty actors involved all have physical disabilities that they must overcome during the performance. That's the premise of every PHAMALy (short for Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actors League) production, and this one is no exception--these intrepid thespians can be seen at work in the Space Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the PLEX, at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, today through August 7. All Saturday performances will be audio-described; in addition, the July 30 show will be sign-interpreted. Tickets are $12 to $15; call 575-1104.

Saturday July 23 That's all folk: Once a year, the Swallow Hill Music Association pulls out all the stops for its fun, family-oriented Folkathon, a nearly nonstop musical fundraiser that also includes heaps of food, children's events, dance demonstrations and more. This year's version runs from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Swallow Hill Music Hall, 1905 S. Pearl St., for an admission price of $4 (kids 18 and under $1). The whole thing will be topped off with an evening concert down the street at the Cameron Church, 1600 S. Pearl. Area fa-vorites, including Chris & Maggie, the Celeste Krenz Trio, Rich Moore & Mollie O'Brien and Carla Sciaky all gather on stage at 8 p.m. Concert tix are $12 ($10 with a day pass); for information call 777-1003.

Virtuoso reality: From the day master pianist Van Cliburn broke through the Iron Curtain to win the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958 to the present, there's hardly been another classical virtuoso who's garnered equal fame. Cliburn, on his first tour in sixteen years, stops over at Fiddler's Green for an extravagant evening under the stars, backed by the venerated Moscow Philharmonic. Tickets for the 7:30 concert range from $25 to $60; to purchase yours call 290-TIXS.

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