Thrills for the week

July 3
War zone: The air is warm and soft, summer's at its peak and it's the glorious start of a long holiday weekend--perfect conditions for a night of dancing in the street. And few bands lend themselves to that purpose better than '70s funk 'n' rollers War, guests tonight during Summer Nights on Larimer Square, a free evening of live urban music under the stars. Food and drink vendors and wandering street performers contribute to the party atmosphere, so come on down: The fun takes place between 6 and 11, rain or shine. Call 607-1276 for details.

Blanket statements: A community-oriented cinema event dishes up unusual fare on an outdoor screen this summer at El Centro Su Teatro, 4725 High St. Now in its third year, the cultural center's Latino Film Series takes the alternative route, presenting rarely seen, experimental and political works by emerging Latino filmmakers at dusk (8:15 to 8:30 p.m.) in the facility's north yard. Billed as being "like a drive-in, only you walk," the picnic-style series also features refreshments; viewers are urged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. The festival, offered on Thursday nights in July, kicks off today with a satirical doubleheader, NaftaAzteca: Cyber-Aztec TV for 2000 A.D. and Columbus on Trial; admission is free. Call 296-0219.

July 4
Lights fantastic: Like your first bite of watermelon in summer, the Fourth of July is fraught with a delicious sense of anticipation: As the sun falls and the mosquitoes come out and the stars begin to twinkle, you already smell the gunpowder, even before the first fireworks ignite. You may not give a fig about patriotism any other day of the year, but the Fourth, alight with glittery surprises, may be different. So stars and stripes forever! Here are a few ways for you and the family to unfurl:

Start your holiday with a bang--or at least a huff and a puff--at the Founders Funds LoDo 5280 8K road race, a rise-and-shine fundraiser benefiting Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. A wheelchair roll leads off the downtown run at 8 in front of Coors Field, 21st and Blake streets, followed a minute later by a wave of racing foot soldiers; walkers bring up the rear beginning at 8:20. Judges at the halfway mark will be evaluating outrageous costumes, so don't be afraid to wear one--you might win some extra July 4th payola for your efforts. Entry fees are $18 in advance ($22 on race day); call 541-3705 for registration information.

The Gold Hill Inn, above Boulder in rustic Gold Hill, hosts its annual Blues-Grass BBQ, fulfilling all your best and brightest picnic fantasies with mouthwatering "Q" and smokin' live music today from noon to 6. Charles Sawtelle and the Whippets headline with Richard Greene; Mollie O'Brien, Scott Nygaard and Mary Russell also perform. Music-only admission is $10 (your pick of the eats is $10 extra); call 443-6461.

If you're looking for an old-fashioned family Fourth, today's ongoing celebration at Hudson Gardens, 6303 S. Santa Fe Dr., has all the right stuff. The gardens, already an eye-opening spectacle in and of themselves, provide a pastoral setting for an entire day of fun, beginning with an 8 a.m. pancake breakfast and ending around 9 p.m. with prime riverside seating for the Columbine Country Club's nearby fireworks display. In between, there'll be live music, a 1920s costume contest, a rubber-duck race, an ice-cream social and plenty of time to wander through the lovely gardens. Gate admission ranges from $1 to $2; a hand stamp allows you to come and go throughout the day. Call 797-8565.

The Children's Museum of Denver, 2121 Children's Museum Dr., promises a fanciful midsummer night's dream evening with a 7 p.m. Twilight Theater, featuring a flamboyant troupe of Colorado Renaissance festival performers, a raptor show and, finally, a fine view of all the 'works in the Central Platte Valley. In addition, all exhibits at the museum will be open until 8; admission is $2 to $5 (kids under one free). Bring a picnic, have some fun and plant your eyes on the sky; for details call 433-7444.

Plan your own Summit of the Fourth at The Fort, U.S. 285 at Hwy. 8 in Morrison, where world leaders dined on buffalo and quail just a couple of weeks ago. In honor of the birth of a nation, Sam Arnold's culinary and touristy landmark will fire its classic Howitzer and Napoleon cannons, then serve up early-Coloradan cocktails, Wild West cuisine and an extraordinary view of fireworks shows across the metro area from its highfalutin' foothills patio. Reservations are recommended; call 697-4771.

Hear the Fourth of July muse full-blast when the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, led by pops-conductor extraordinaire Newton Wayland, booms at Fiddler's Green, 6350 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., tonight at 8. The Blue Knights drum-and-bugle corps and vocalists Katherine Terrell and Lew von Schlanbusch join in for an all-American evening topped with fireworks; for tickets, $8 to $18, call 830-TIXS.

Stargazers will see more than the usual constellations tonight at Copper Mountain Resort, where the six-day Astronomical League Convention convened on July 1. Today's convention activities include a barbecue buffet with telescope viewing and fireworks, and the public is welcome to participate; you can purchase a $25 day pass at the Copper Mountain Convention Center registration desk. For more information call 871-2135.

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