Summer has come to Aspen -- a fact made obvious by this weekend's blossoming of cultural events in the high-country playground of the rich and famous. One of the mountain town's most enduring traditions, the Aspen Music Festival, begins today, boasting a nonstop, summer-long paean to classical music and fresh air. This year's fest, Musical Visionaries: Beethoven, Berlioz, and Beyond, focuses on forward-looking compositions with over 200 events, not the least of which will be glorious concerts in the Benedict Music Tent. Admission is $5 to $55 per concert; for details, call 1-970-925-9042 or log on to www. aspenmusicfestival.com. Also hitting the ground running this weekend is the first leg of Janus Jazz Aspen Snowmass, showcasing a more contemporary musical mix under the stars at Aspen's Rio Grande Park, today through Sunday. This year's June lineup includes the Chico O'Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Tony Bennett, Boz Scaggs, India.Arie, Joe Cocker and Shemekia Copeland; for tickets, $23-$78 daily or $120 for a festival pass, call 1-866-JAS-TIXX or log on to www.jazzaspen.com. In addition, the music of words will be celebrated starting Saturday at the Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival, a five-day conference that includes guest authors Ron Carlson, Pam Houston, Ann Patchett, Amy Bloom and Pat Schroeder. The pensmiths hold forth through June 25; a festival pass goes for $150. Call 1-970-920-5770 or log on to www.aspenwriters.org.
Friday, June 20
Opa! It's Greek Festival time again -- when Denver denizens gather to partake in ouzo, dolmades, gyros, baklava and thick, sweet Greek coffee to the tune of Zorba-style music and dancing. And fest organizers say this year's event will take celebrants even deeper into Greek culture than in past years, with lectures by author Nicholas Gage and Greek Orthodox liturgical composer Dr. Theodore Bogdanos, performances by the Assumption Cathedral Choir and an art exhibit. It all takes place today and tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, 4610 East Alameda Avenue, Glendale; admission ranges from $1 to $3 (children under twelve and seniors get in free). Call 303-388-9314 or log on to www. assumptioncathedral.org for details.
Jazz aficionados would do well to follow the Footprints to Boulder, where the Wayne Shorter Quartet follows a modern road tonight at 8 p.m. at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th Street. The all-star combo features drummer Brian Blade, pianist Danilo Perez and bassist John Patitucci in addition to stellar saxophonist Shorter, a man whose career crossed paths with Art Blakey and Miles Davis before blazing its own trail. Tickets are $31 and $41; for reservations, call 303-786-7030 or log on to www.bouldertheater.com.
Saturday, June 21
No one puts on airs at the Art Students League Summer Art Market, and that's what makes it so fresh. So if you're interested in looking at art rather than seeing and being seen, this is the place to go. An annual project of the workingman's art school, this year's event will showcase pieces by more than 240 artists, students and professionals, offering an incredible spread of styles, media and talent levels. Do your Leo and Gertrude Stein thing and try to discover Denver's next Picasso today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the outdoor market fills the streets surrounding 200 Grant Street, with artist booths, live music and kids' activities. Call 303-778-6990 or log on to www. asld.org.
At least as egalitarian, but geared to music fans, is the ninth annual Westword Music Showcase, this paper's own salute to local musicians and local fans alike. This year's event is right on Westword's Golden Triangle home turf, with an open-air stage on Acoma Street between Ninth and Tenth avenues. Performers include high-powered national acts such as Mushroom Jazz-man Mark Farina, jam band Particle and the inimitable Guided by Voices; local-music showcases rock at the Acoma Center, Dazzle, La Rumba, Serengeti and the Church. As always, you're invited to come, listen and vote for your favorites, beginning at 3 p.m.; the winners will be presented at an awards ceremony on June 26 at the Bluebird Theater. Get your all-inclusive admission wristband for $5 in advance (or pay $10 at the gate); for more information, it's right here, at www.westword.com.
Sunday, June 22
Polo, anyone? Ever since Ginger Baker blew in and out of the area, the former Cream drummer's sport of choice has enjoyed a resurgence along the Front Range. Well, here's the event of the season: The Denver Polo Classic, which is said to be the largest and oldest charity polo match in the nation, rushes the field at the Polo Reserve, 4401 West Mineral Avenue, Littleton, today beginning at 10:30 a.m. Top polo pros will be there, along with champagne and good eats on the sidelines from 240 Union restaurant and Great Northern Tavern. Tickets are $100 and benefit Denver Active 20-30 Children's Foundation charities; call 303-832-8390 or log on to www.denverpolo.org.
Monday, June 23
Hey, pacifists! You have something to say, but you'd really prefer to let someone else deliver the punch? Pen a peace poem quickly and send it off to Gunnison poet/activist Alan Wartes before he leaves on his Peace Poets Walk to Denver on July 10. Wartes and friends plan to present a sheaf of peaceful ditties to Governor Owens at the State Capitol on July 24 after a fifteen-day, 250-mile walk through the southern mountains and I-25 corridor. Submit verses (one entry, one page or less per person) by June 27 to Peace Poets, 115 South Colorado, Gunnison, CO 81230; Wartes requires two hard copies and requests a $5 donation. One copy will go to the guv, the other will be archived; for details, call 1-970-641-2199.