THRILLS

Wednesday August 17 King of the off-road: You could call it a last hurrah for summer mountain bikers, or it might just be a hearty affirmation of the popular sport. Either way, this year's King of the Rockies Off-Road Stage Race and Mountain Bike Festival goes out of its way to have something for everyone--from the professional hotshots who come to compete to the little guys on their Schwinn fat-wheelers who come for a breath of fresh air. Beginning today and continuing through Sunday, cyclists will converge on Winter Park for the events, which include daily guided bike tours--varying in length and difficulty--($35 for unlimited tours, a racer packet, T-shirt and more), a bicycle poker ride, a pasta dinner for optimum carbo-load, a special race just for kids and a full-moon bike tour. But the heart of the weekend belongs to the Beaver's Circuit Race, beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, and the Tipperary Creek Classic Point-to-Point, starting at the same time Sunday--both of which are open to all ages, levels and abilities. There will be a Summer Sports Expo at the finish line for the slackers who don't compete. Everyone ought to go home happy, if not sore and tired. For event information or race registration call 1-303-726-5741; for lodging reservations call 447-0588.

Thursday August 18 Tango very much: You can't mention modern tango without whispering the name of Astor Piazzolla--the late, brilliant master whose weeping virtuosity on the bandoneon (an Argentine accordion) became synonymous with the genre. His work lives on, though transformed, in the music of Pablo Ziegler & the Quartet for New Tango, performing this evening at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1005 York St. Ziegler, who accompanied Piazzolla on piano for more than ten years, blends classic patterns and improvisational elements, with help from guitarist Enrique Sinesi, bassist Oscar Giunta, percussionist Horacio Lopez--and, reprising the essence of Piazzolla's musical soul on bandoneon, special guest Nestor Marconi. Tickets for the 7:15 p.m. show are $14 ($11 DBG members); to reserve call 777-7372.

Friday August 19 Rockabilly heaven: Tired of hip hop, grunge and metal? Then get retro. You won't find a more energetic sound in the rock-and-roll repertoire than you will in a scorching set of old-fashioned, bass-slapping rockabilly music. Three local groups will plumb the meaning of the term tonight at the Mercury Cafe: the headlining Hillbilly Hellcats, the crying-in-your-beer honky-tonkers Slim Cessna's Auto Club and the swinging Dalhart Imperials. The Merc is located at 2199 California St.; call 294-9281 for information.

Saturday August 20 A joyful noise: More than a few disbelievers have been swayed over to religion during a Gospel Extravaganza like the one taking place tonight at 8 at Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder. Tonight's foot-stomping, roof-raising, spiritually astounding outburst, emceed by KGNU DJ Madame Andrews, features local talent, including the House of Joy Deliverance Choir, Denver trio Determination and, from Boulder's Second Baptist Church, the teenaged Praise Steppers. Tickets for the show range between $10 and $15; Chautauqua is located near 9th and Baseline in Boulder. Call 440-7666.

A grand old time: Where do cows, cowboys, country music fans, car fanatics and carnival-goers all find something in common? Around these parts, at the Colorado State Fair, a seventeen-day platter of events at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo that involves all these groups and more. The fair, featuring a bevy of activities, ranging from flower arranging to home-brewing contests, tractor pulls and monster trucks, animal judging, PRCA rodeo events, the Bill Hames Carnival Show (what fair is complete without a Ferris wheel?) and miles of live entertainment, much of which is free, really gets going tonight, when country music star Wynonna hits the grandstand at 8 (tickets $15-$17), and tomorrow, when the Tejano Music Fest (tickets $6-$12) brings nonstop Latino music to the stage from noon to midnight. Upcoming concerts include Mark Chesnutt and Marty Stuart on August 25, Vince Gill on August 27, Carlene Carter on August 28, and Clint Black on September 4. General admission to the fair is $6 ($3.50 seniors, $3 children ages six to eleven); to purchase tickets for concerts or rodeo events call 1-800-444-FAIR or 290-TIXS.

Chin music: Your usual musician carries his or her instrument in a case, but Keith Terry has no need for one--he calls himself a "body musician" and has all he needs right on him, wherever he goes. He makes vocal sounds, pops his cheek, slaps his stomach and stamps his feet, producing an amazing artillery of sounds. And that's it. No wonder his fans include Bobby McFerrin and Robin Williams. See him tonight when Keith Terry & Cross Pulse perform at the Arvada Center Amphitheatre, 6901 Wadsworth, at 7:30. Joining Terry and friends will be Samite of Uganda, a musical storyteller who uses kalimbas, marimbas, flutes, hand drums, guitars and harp to further his folkloric plots. Tickets for this unusual double feature are $8 for lawn seating and $16 reserved; for details call 431-3939.

Sunday August 21 The wild ones: You can't put a roof over this acting company's head--the members of Chameleon Stage just aren't themselves unless they're working outdoors. The site-specific theater troupe, which has set past works in the woods and in parking lots, will present Theatre in the Wild, consisting of four original one-act plays, just off a bike path near the Briarwood Inn in Golden. Bring a picnic and settle on the grass for Steve Hunter's A House of Dreams and Tami Canaday's Wilderness Averted, staged at 11 a.m., followed by a lunch break and performances of Pat Gabridge's All Is Fair and Mark Higdon's Story at 12:30 p.m. Shows will repeat on August 27 and 28. Tickets are $4; for information or directions call 595-5668.

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