Shine on: Why do holidays seem to leave us all with that warm, fuzzy feeling? Maybe it's just a combination of shopping burnout and too many seasonal toasts, although a prevailing sense of tradition is a better, or at least a more heartwarming, guess. Two local traditions--one grandiose and slightly garish yet as time-honored as they come, and the other neighborly, with historic and folkloric undertones--get under way today, bringing music, families and stars in your eyes to different parts of downtown Denver. On the Civic Center end, Mayor Webb presides over the hour-long annual Denver City and County Building Lighting Ceremony, tonight between 6 and 7 at 14th and Bannock streets. Pre-spectacle entertainment will be provided by the Showstoppers USA musical troupe, the 17th Avenue All-Stars a cappella group, the University of Northern Colorado Brass Quintet and the Colorado Choir. Afterward, Mr. Mayor flips the switch on one of the city's most blinding and popular sensations--all 20,000 or so lights of it. What to bring? How about sunglasses? Admission is free; call 830-6367. If candlelit folk traditions are more to your liking, El Centro Su Teatro brings back its annual presentation of The Miracle at Tepeyac, a play combining indigenous Hispanic religious imagery with the story of old Auraria's displaced Chicano community. Appropriately, the performances--7:30 p.m. nightly, today through Sun.--take place at St. Cajetan's Church on the Auraria campus. Texas actress Lisa Suarez, seen nationally this year in the film Lone Star, appears in the role of the Virgin of Guadalupe; for tickets, $15 ($45/family of four), call 296-0219.
Walk on by: Gallery strolls take on new meaning in December, when everyone's on the lookout for the perfect doodad to give Aunt Helen. One of the best such events--the Cherry Creek North Holiday Gallery Walk--focuses heavily on fanciful gift items, and it does so in one of the most festive and glitzy shopping areas in town. Twenty-two Cherry Creek North galleries, situated along bustling Second and Third avenues between University Blvd. and St. Paul St., open their doors to browsers between 5 and 9 tonight, offering artwork, handcrafted jewelry, animation cels, pottery, glass, folk art, wearables and other one-of-a-kind indescribables to shoppers. And best of all, if you're still baffled, further shopping opportunities at the Tattered Cover Book Store or Cherry Creek Mall are just a few steps away. Call 320-0926 for information.
Major hoopla: Everyone loves a parade, even when it coincides with an epidemic of cold ears and red cheeks. Bundle up for the NEWS4 Parade of Lights. The event, celebrating its 22nd year, wends its way through downtown streets--with new and improved lighting, floats, Macy's-style monster balloons and live entertainment--tonight at 8 and tomorrow at 6. Beginning at 14th and Bannock streets in Civic Center, the parade route circles downtown, going up 17th from Tremont and returning on 15th from Arapahoe to Glenarm. As always, the fun is free, but early arrival and warm mittens are suggested; less adventurous souls can watch a live telecast on KCNC-TV/Channel 4 tonight only. Call 478-7878.
Treasure islands: 'Tis the season to support your local gallery--Lord knows your local gallery is doing its part to help you out this time of year. Salons scattered all around the city are in the giftables business this month, dishing up scads of affordable artworks. Several area galleries, for instance, think small in December, with shows featuring miniatures. Tiny treasures will abound tonight at openings hosted by the Abend Gallery, the Merrill Gallery and Genre at Melbourne Court. In addition, the neighborly RedShift Gallery goes LoDo all the way with a show of location-specific photographs by Kim Allen and watercolors by Paul Opsahl; the Mackey Gallery offers a benefit exhibit of matted $200 works; the membership of the Zip 37 cooperative goes Home for the Holidays; and Sunset Gallery has portrait artist Marcy Misata in for two days to do on-the-spot illustrations (sitting appointments recommended; call 861-9270 or 861-9272). One last idea: The Next Van Gogh, a direct-sales collective of artists, offers a mishmash of local and student artwork while eliminating added costs normally swallowed up by a middleman. The group struts its stuff tonight from 7 to 10; call 628-1971 for location and other information. For details on additional gallery shows, see this issue's gallery listings, beginning on page 38.
Spin doctors: Your never-ending search for the new and different holiday gift might just end here: The Swallow Hill Holiday Music Mart expands your gift-giving horizons with a fabulous selection of acoustic, folk and world-music CDs, as well as books, crafts and edibles for all ages. The annual benefit sale, opening tonight from 5 to 9 and continuing from 10 to 7 tomorrow and 11 to 5 Sunday, not only turns a usually hectic shopping experience into a laid-back kind of party, but it also helps the Swallow Hill Music Association maintain its popular concert series and music school. Swallow Hill is at 1905 S. Pearl St.; call 777-1003.
Small businessmen: While some kids spend the season hunkered over their mile-long Christmas lists, others are, well, out making a bundle. The Young Entrepreneurs Marketplace, featuring booths for more than 35 youth-run enterprises ranging from coffee imports to hand-drawn caricatures, shows what the Denver area's under-21 MBAs of the future are doing--right now, at home, in their spare time. Peruse the youngsters' wares today from 10 to 1 at the Young Americans Bank, 311 Steele St.; for details call 321-2954.
Once upon a time...: Local children's theater company Imagination Makers specializes in dramatizing real-life stories that provide young audiences with windows into personal heritage and a maze of contemporary issues. The group presents a musical, Colorado Children, that's based on oral or written histories of multicultural Colorado old-timers culled from interviews and memoirs, today at 2 at the Boulder Public Library Auditorium; the play, which is free and open to the public, is suggested for children ages five to twelve. Call 441-3196 or 666-6218.
Equal time: There's more than one way, in these multicultural times, to celebrate the season: Some choose to acknowledge African roots, while adhering to all-American family and community values, by observing the African-American holiday Kwanzaa. A regional cultural group, the Chuck Davis Community Dance Project, hosts a series of Kwanzaa-related events, beginning this evening at 6:30 with a special hands-on workshop on festival do's and don'ts at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater, 119 Park Ave. West. A potluck pre-Kwanzaa Karamu (Swahili for "celebration") follows from 8 to 10 at the same location; guests are encouraged to wear African garb and bring African musical instruments. Both events are free, but space limitations require pre-registration for the workshop; call 442-7666 for information. Switching gears, a hoedown for Hanukkah celebrants takes place tonight at the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., where Reb Ya'acov Gabriel and the Eclectics perform at 7:30. The group mixes up musical styles from folk to reggae; for tickets, $5 to $7 (or $21 for families), call 399-2660, ext. 365. Finally, Michael Martin Murphey's Cowboy Christmas Ball celebrates Christmas, Western-style, tonight at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl. Murphey invites you to sit around the campfire with him--at least figuratively--for music and tall tales, beginning at 7:30. Admission is $21.50; call 830-TIXS.
Sugar Plum ferry: It's a given: Christmastime goes hand-in-hand with The Nutcracker, the classic ballet in which the Sugar Plum Fairy and Nutcracker Prince charm little dreamer Clara with dancing toys and sugary treats, year after year. The Colorado Ballet lets you make a day of it this year by offering a series of special Ballet and Holiday Lights Celebrations that combine a 2 p.m. Nutcracker matinee featuring a fresh production and unexpected new characters, a holiday buffet and an evening motorcoach tour of the area's most spectacular Christmas light displays. The package--offered today and December 14, 15, 21 and 24--includes optional pick-up and drop-off bus service to specific areas (today's special services the Boulder/Longmont region); tickets are $60 for adults and $55 for children. Proceeds benefit the Denver Performing Arts Complex and Colorado Ballet; call 581-9720 or 776-2270 for information and reservations.
You make me feel so young: Younger folks get to mosh with a vengeance whenever they like, but older adults need to have a little fun, too--preferably sans the tattoos, black eyes and bruises. This year's Mayor's Gala Holiday Ball, held from 7:30 to 10:30 tonight at the Adam's Mark Hotel, 1550 Court Place, gives area seniors just such a chance to kick up their heels--peacefully; the Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra provides the music. Tickets are $5 and available in advance at the following recreation centers: Ash Grove, 692-5610; Barnum, 937-4655; Berkeley, 458-4871; Highland, 458-4868; Montbello, 373-8710; Montclair, 364-8607; and Platt Park, 698-4965. For general information call 458-4868.
Hope and glory: Everybody loves a winner. For the all-in-black crowd, that could mean slo-mo rockers Mazzy Star, a cultish duo out touting its third moody CD, Among My Swan. When sullen siren Hope Sandoval and former Rain Parade stoner David Roback pack them in tonight at 8 at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder, you might do well to pack a flashlight--how else are you going to pick your way through the murky crowd? Tickets are $15.75; call 830-TIXS to reserve yours.
Main attractions: One of the region's prettiest civic Christmas displays has for several years lit up the main drag in downtown Littleton with a web of furiously twinkling lights. The town's delightfully old-fashioned Main Street invites folks to promenade, shop and soak up the lights from 6 to 9 p.m. each Wednesday before Christmas during Christmas Under the Lights, a street-wide open house featuring live entertainment and carols to accompany you on your leisurely stroll. Nearby at Hudson Gardens, 6303 S. Santa Fe Dr., holiday lights will also glimmer, taking the place of the attraction's hibernating flora. Main Street hosts a variety of children's choirs, the Sunshine Generation and the Littleton United Methodist Chancel Choir tonight; call 794-2787 for details.