Thrills for the week

Thursday
December 26
The gifts that go on being given: We all have to deal with these things we found under the tree--the inevitable twelve hand-knit sweaters, eleven Dr. Seuss ties, ten Tickle Me Elmos, nine pairs of earmuffs, etc. The funny thing is, someone out there might love to have some of that stuff. So here's what to do: Pack it up, throw in a few useful household items, gently used clothes or non-perishable foods, and drop everything off at the Southglenn Mall's Center Court, where The Late Christmas, a day-after donation event bene-fiting the Salvation Army's Lambuth Transitional Center for families, gets under way beginning at 10 a.m. Southglenn is located at University Blvd. and Arapahoe Rd. in Littleton; for information call 795-0856.

Jingle-bell jazz: You've got to give the Denver Botanic Gardens some credit--the central-Denver pastoral paradise just doesn't let frost and bad weather get in its way. In place of summer's luscious beds of daffodils and roses, the DBG strings up a dazzling outdoor display called Blossoms of Light, fills its indoor lobby with a blinding stand of poinsettias and puts on a bloomin' music series--in the dead of winter. The holiday series finishes up tonight at 7 with a sweet jazz evening featuring the impeccable Paul Warburton Quartet; for tickets, $13, call 370-8187.

Day and Knights: In real life, he's DeWayne Jessie. But to the world at large, he's "Otis, my man!"--the legendary Otis Day, best remembered for making us want to "Shout!" in the 1978 movie Animal House. And to the constant delight of more current collegiate generations still having resplendent Animal dreams, he continues his divine ruse to this day. Day and his band--that Beavis and Butt-head dream come true known as the Knights--bring their get-down party repertoire to the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, tonight at 9; we just dare you to show up in a toga. Tickets are $10.50; call 447-0095 or 830-TIXS.

Friday
December 27
Music to your ears: The Australian film Shine, which opened Christmas Day at the Esquire Theatre, 590 Downing St., aims at being both a music-lover's paean to inborn, passion-driven instrumental skill and a heartbreaking portrayal of the fragile side of genius. But whatever your taste in movies, most viewers agree that the inspirational heart of the movie, based on the life of concert pianist David Helfgott, is music itself. As a holiday treat, Denver keyboard virtuoso Francisco Aybar will warm up 8 p.m. Shine audiences at the Esquire with live performances at 7:40, nightly through Sunday. Aybar's mini-concerts are free with regular admission; call 733-5757 for details.

Saturday
December 28
Born free: Well, not exactly. The denizens of the Denver Zoo are usually found safely wandering the confines of their habitats. But almost anyone--being a Colorado resident is the only stipulation--making a visit to the popular menagerie today from 10 to 4 can do so without paying a penny. Now, if you can just stay out of the gift shops and snack bars! The zoo, located in Denver's City Park, is open daily year-round; for information call 331-4100. And in case you were wondering--the holiday Wildlights display, open from 6 to 9 p.m., requires a separate admission.

Sunday
December 29
Reach for the sky: Since everyone except the tone-deaf seems to like it, a little music can go a long way toward bridging cultural gaps. To that end, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra takes a musical, multicultural trip around the world this afternoon, during Hands Across the Sea, a showcase of classical works with global appeal. From John Philip Sousa's Hands Across the Sea March to Wagner's bombastic The Ride of the Valkyries, each selection is guaranteed to keep even the most easily distracted, fidgety audience members bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to the bitter end--which comes fairly quickly for the one-hour family concerts, scheduled at 2:30 and 4 p.m. at Boettcher Concert Hall, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children; call 830-TIXS to reserve yours.

Monday
December 30
Tune up: It's too late for ho-ho-hos and mistletoe and too early for champagne and "Auld Lang Syne." So what's a poor party animal to do? If you're willing to forgo the party hats and bubbly in a plastic cup, you could get a head start on the New Year with help from Sonia Dada, the Chicago rock 'n' soul outfit that's become a Boulder favorite. The good-timey Sonias (or is that the Dadas?) test-drive their American music amalgam tonight at 9 at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder; they return for the official party at the same time tomorrow. For tickets, $21 tonight or $28.35 on New Year's Eve, call 447-0095 or 830-TIXS.

Tuesday
December 31
The good, the bad and the smutty: Another year is about to be sucked down the great universal drain into oblivion, so don't get caught in the vortex, good ladies and gents. New Year's Eve ought to be downright fun without the annoying stigmata of bad behavior and resolution lists waiting to be broken. Why not make your last night on earth--in 1996--a guiltless celebration this year? Tomorrow, after all, is another day.

Early risers can start the eve conscientiously, well before sunrise: First Divine Science Church's annual Global Meditation Service touts good wishes for worldwide unity while most hell-bent New Year celebrants are still catching some last-minute REMs. The service, timed to synchronize with similar events around the world, begins at 5 a.m.; bring a potluck contribution and stay afterward for breakfast. The church is at 1400 Williams St.; call 322-7738.

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.

Wednesday
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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