Thrills for the week

So you're a kid? Not to worry, short stuff. First Night Colorado, the town's premier non-alcoholic New Year's bash, starts early--at 3--and features fun stuff for everyone. Since its new indoor location at the Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th St., precludes a midnight shower of fireworks as in years past, a sensational special-effects show is promised for the party's finale--but not before as many as 300 local performing artists take to seven stages throughout the evening. Hands-on children's arts workshops and an optional prime-rib dinner ($9.50 a plate) round out the night; admission ranges from $5 to $13. Call 619-1997.

What, you're a sequined grownup? High-end New Year's glitz is never a problem in this town. At the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, the musical revue Andrew Lloyd Webber--Music of the Night, starring Webber regular Betty Buckley, opens tonight at 8 for a run that continues through January 5. Admission is $20 to $55; for showtimes or reservations call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS. Meanwhile, down at Boettcher Concert Hall (also in the Plex), the Colorado Symphony Orchestra will be tuning up for its annual New Year pops concert and celebration. This year, conductor Newton Wayland and the CSO trot out guest soprano Katherine Terrell, who will belt out an Ethel Merman salute at 7:30. Dinner and dancing follow the music; for tickets, $5 to $38 for the concert only and $60 for the dinner/dance, call 830-TIXS. Or, for a real late-night treat, be the first on your block to see Madonna in Evita. The blockbuster film, opening tomorrow at the Mayan Theater, 110 Broadway, will sashay out of the gate early New Year's Day at a special 12:30 a.m. screening. Tickets go on sale at the theater box office today at noon; call 744-6796. Advance tix for the film's regular run can also be purchased by calling 1-888-EVITA97.

And for adults only? Start your eve at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St., where Boulder beat Ed Ward hosts an Evening of Erotic Poetry from 7 to 9. Tell it like it is: To get information or sign up to read your own blue verse, call 333-9184. Admission is five bucks.

There's one in every crowd. You know who you are--the indecisive person who still doesn't know what to do. For more ideas, turn to this issue's comprehensive New Year's Guide, where the lowdown on everything, uptown or downtown, is listed for your convenience. And be careful out there.

January 1
Snow job: All aboard! Elite-level snowboarders from around the world are chugging their way toward the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, where they'll have a chance to go for the gold for the first time ever. The inaugural Snowboard Grand Prix Tour, stopping over this week at Aspen/ Snowmass Village for half-pipe and giant slalom events, is an early step in the process by which competitors qualify for the sport's Olympic debut. The international band of expert carvers dot the ski Eden's slopes today through Sunday; call 1-970-925-1550.

On the other hand, if your New Year's resolutions included something about getting off your butt and feeling the wind in your face, spectating just won't do. Lucky for you, first-time schussers ages fourteen and older at Winter Park Resort can chill in the hills for the price of an all-day lift ticket and ski rental throughout January, during a season otherwise known at Winter Park as Learn for Free Month. That taken care of, a three-hour ski or snowboard lesson with one of the resort's crack instructors can be had free of charge all month long, while second- or third-day followups cost $15 each. So maybe, while slippin' and slidin' on the slopes, you'll end up on your butt anyway. Who cares? For more information call 1-970-726-1551; for lodging reservations call 1-800-729-5813.

A change is gonna come: There's more to life than the Parade of Roses and a hangover--they're not exactly the right ingredients for the fresh, new start we associate with the New Year. Here's a couple of ways to spend at least part of your day that might end up making you feel better about the world around you:

The first of January carries many connotations, historical and otherwise, but you might not realize that Abe Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing black American slaves on this day, in 1863. Now you know. Just so you don't forget it, the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center will host an Emancipation Proclamation Comme-moration today at noon at the Eulipions Youth Institute, 2425 Welton St. The free event includes hands-on activities for kids; for details call 292-2566.

Denver's Latino community can claim plenty of roots down in the San Luis Valley, where some of Colorado's earliest settlers lived and worked and brought their customs to the state. One of them, called Los Dias--a poignant, people-oriented holiday tradition during which musicians go from home to home singing ballads tailored to each family visited--will be celebrated today during a brunch (including endemic foods such as posole, atole and chile) and presentation of folk music at the Landmark Inn, 455 S. Colorado Blvd. Musicians Danny Candaleria and Edward Villareal will re-enact the music of Los Dias at 10 a.m. and noon; admission, which includes brunch, is $7.50. The event, sponsored by public radio KUVO, benefits the station's Canciones del Pasado educational program; call 480-9272 or 650-1253 for more information.

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