Other towns may have cherry blossoms or clouds of swooping swallows, but the surest sign of spring in Denver is the annual advent of Cinco de Mayo, a celebration that spotlights the region's resplendent Hispanic culture. The city usually offers numerous fiestas, but what's indisputably the largest unfurls over the weekend at Civic Center Park, at Broadway and Colfax. This year's Celebrate Cultures Festival kicks off in the park tonight from 6 to 10 with a free concert before settling in for two days of major revelry for all ages. From 10 to 7 Saturday and Sunday, Civic Center will come alive with activities and attractions, from the crowd-pleasing lowrider car and bike show to a sparkly carnival midway. Also on tap, along with the usual food and crafts vendors, are a fine-art Galeria de Artistas, live entertainment on five stages, and storytelling, a petting zoo and pony rides for the kids. In addition, a beautiful parade starts the day tomorrow, and a rousing mariachi Mass blares at 10 a.m. on Sunday; grounds admission is free.
On a smaller scale suited perfectly to smaller people, Grupo Folklorico performs tonight at 6:30 as part of the Children's Museum of Denver's ongoing Twilight Theatre. The vividly costumed troupe performs traditional dances of Mexico; see them free with your paid museum admission, which ranges from $2 to $5. The museum, located at I-25 and 23rd Ave., will also feature Cinco de Mayo crafts and games for children on May 5; for details call 433-7444.
You can have your art and eat it, too, when the enigmatically titled They artists' cooperative presents Feast of Fools, billed as a food-related art statement that includes fine art, performance and installations, some of which will be edible. A reception/feast takes place tonight from 7 to 11 at the gallery, located upstairs at 1280 Sherman St.; co-op members request that those attending bring either canned-food donations for charity or a potluck dish to share at the opening. Inedible works will remain on view by appointment through May 24; call 202-6811.
The birds are chirping and the little green leaves are popping out; it's time for Ready, Set...Garden!, a gardener's extravaganza scheduled today from 9 to 5 at Hudson Gardens, 6115 S. Santa Fe Dr. You can stroll the impeccably planted and maintained gardens looking for ideas, but you'll get the real dirt during the outdoor affair's gardening demonstrations, book signings and plant and craft sales. Food, entertainment and kids' activities, including a hands-on twig-sculpture booth and a creepy-crawly display from the Butterfly Pavilion, round out the day's bill of fare. Gate admission, which includes today's gardening fair, ranges from $2 to $4; call 797-8565.
Once that inspires you to get your hands --and knees--dirty, consider the plight of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, which is experiencing a serious shortage of seasonal gardeners this season. "Spring is upon us," says spokeswoman Judy Montero, who adds that green-thumbed folks are desperately needed to help maintain flower beds, mow and water grass and remove trash in Denver parks. The job pays $7.76 an hour in addition to providing lots of time in the sun; interested parties can call 964-2590 to apply.
Then again, if you're inspired to gardenly things but don't need a summer job, you can still go shopping. Artful garden gewgaws are in abundance at Wild Flowers, 1201 Madison St., and the Perfect Petal, 3621 W. 32nd Ave., and several galleries have functional, garden-themed shows opening this weekend. Signs of Spring features sunny garden art, birdhouses, arbors and other lovely things at Me L Yu Gallery, 107 Broadway (733-0344), and the Roundtree Clay Studio, 2942 Welton St. (294-9985), hosts not just garden, not just clay, a spring show and sale open today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tomorrow from noon to 4 p.m. This is also the weekend to hit the Boulder Arts & Crafts Cooperative, 1421 Pearl St., Boulder, where Vases in Vogue is on display through May 11. Buy any vase on weekends throughout the run and you can have it filled on the spot with fresh-cut flowers; proceeds will benefit Boulder County Safehouse. Call 443-3683.
When the people at E-Town chose someone to represent them at their 7th Anniversary B'Earthday Bash, they made a righteous choice: They asked folk-music legend Joan Baez, a testament to creative longevity, to grace the stage during the party. So when the environmental news-and-music radio show celebrates before a live audience tonight at 7 in CU-Boulder's Macky Auditorium, it will be Baez's crystalline voice, however weathered by time, that holds spectators speechless. Enough said. Laura Love and her band will also perform; for tickets, $15 to $60, call 786-7030.
When you think Celtic music, you naturally have to think Chieftains: Though many have tried and lots of them do it quite well, no other musical group more roundly embodies the ancient genre. Led by Uileann piper Paddy Maloney, the band--35 years old and counting--has been heard in recent times on the soundtrack for a PBS series, The Irish in America: The Long Journey Home. That lilting score, with performances by a who's who of Irish music that includes Van Morrison, Elvis Costello and Sinead O'Connor as well as Maloney and the Boys, has now also been released as an album. The Chieftains perform their share of the CD's music tonight at 8 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl.; for tickets, $23.50 to $33.50, call 830-TIXS.
Relax--Jazz Is Dead is nothing but a play on words. We think. The powerhouse combo, an odd quartet including Mahavishnu Orchestra veteran Billy Cobham on drums, Aquarium Rescue Unit guitarist Jimmy Herring, acclaimed bassist Alphonso Johnson and Dixie Dregs keyboard guy T Lavitz, is one of the weirdest--and probably one of the best--Grateful Dead tribute bands out there, playing an all-Dead repertoire with a blazing, jaw-dropping degree of virtuosity that we're not used to hearing in any context. They'll truck into the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, tonight at 9; for tickets, $18, call 443-3399 or 830-TIXS. Or you can catch them at 10 p.m. tomorrow at the Aggie Theater, 204 College Ave., Fort Collins. Tickets to the Fort Collins show are $18 to $20; call 1-970-407-1322.
Here are the only tap dancers in town who put on work boots to shine the floor--they're the cast of Tap Dogs, a six-man sensation that first made sparks on its gritty blue-collar/industrial set three years ago in Australia. If you missed it during its first explosive clattering through Denver in 1996, here's your chance: The chiseled construction-worker cast noisily returns to the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, tonight at 8 for the first night of a two-week run. Admission ranges from $15 to $32; call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS to reserve tickets.
Tango is big. Really big. And it's no wonder: No form of music or dance packs a romantic double whammy more potent than the hot-blooded Latin genre. DU's Lamont School of Music is setting some faculty members and guest artists--including classical guitarists Ricardo Iznaola and Masakazu Ito, pianist Alice Rybak, cellist Richard Slavich, the Da Vinci Quartet and accordionist Robert Davine--loose with it tonight: In addition to performances of compositions by the late Argentinian tango master Astor Piazzolla, they'll present Tango, a comic mini-opera with a rose between its teeth. A hot night that's all in fun, the concert takes place at 8 at the Houston Fine Arts Center, 7111 Montview Blvd.; admission is $7 in advance ($8 at the door). Call 871-6412.