Nothing will put your life back into simple perspective more quickly than a long weekend at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities' annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering, where Range Rovers still have four legs and a tail and run on grass and hay. It's just so refreshing, after all, to chew on straws and listen to rustic readings instead of going to another mall. Among this year's eloquent crop at the event are Australian bush poets John Best and Janine Haig, fresh from the Outback, swingin' duo Liz Masterson and Sean Blackburn, the omnipresent Bill Barwick, California trio New West and Canadian group Cowboy Celtic. But that's only a fraction of the entire who's who: Dozens of performers will participate in five on-stage concerts throughout the four-day event, with additional daytime sessions on Friday and Saturday afternoon. For a complete schedule and tickets, $12 to $24, call 720-898-7200 or log on to www.arvadacenter.org. The Arvada Center is at 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard.
Friday, January 9
The world of fine art is one of the first cultural zones in Denver to make a big comeback in the new year, as evidenced by a profusion of strong shows opening this weekend. A couple of annual member shows at time-honored indies start things off. CORE New Art Space, 2045 Larimer Street, baptizes the year with works by members in the main gallery and contributions by associates in the loft (attend a reception tonight from 7 to 10 p.m. or visit the gallery through January 25; call 303-297-8428), while Spark Gallery, 1535 Platte Street, hosts its member showcase through February 15 (a reception runs from 7 to 10 p.m. tonight; call 303-455-4435). Elsewhere, Pirate: A Contemporary Art Oasis, 3659 Navajo Street, gives a friendly nod to our artistic neighbors to the north with its annual Wyoming Exchange Show, through January 25 (opening reception 7 to10 p.m. tonight; call 303-458-6058), and the Metro State Center for the Visual Arts, 1734 Wazee Street, makes a splash with Picasso: 25 Years of Edition Ceramics From the Edward and Ann Weston Collection, featuring 65 functional/three-dimensional works that offer an unusual take on the Picasso legacy. The show opens today and continues through February 28 (opening reception 7 to 9 p.m. January 15; call 303-294-5207). Next door, at 1740 Wazee Street, the Robischon Gallery debuts a solo exhibition of paper sculpture by Jae Ko, along with prints by Ross Bleckner, canvas works by Terry Maker, and drawings and panel works by Brad Miller, today through February 14 (opening reception January 15; call 303-298-7788). And at Ironton Studios & Gallery, 3636 Chestnut Place, The Sea, a collaborative installation by Melissa Borman and Rian Kerrane incorporating sculpture, photography and video, will be on view through February 7 (opening reception 6 to 9 p.m. tomorrow; call 303-297-8626). For more on gallery openings, see Night & Day listings at www.westword.com.
Saturday, January 10
Here's to oatmeal: It's lumpy, off-white and slimy, tastes especially great disguised in cookies and is healthy as heck. Is there a better reason to celebrate? That's the question folks in Lafayette asked themselves seven years ago, when the Boulder County town introduced its Lafayette Oatmeal Festival, an oddly timed, totally unique semi-outdoor revel in the name of lowering cholesterol and putting on a happy face. More power to them. The 2004 edition kicks off today at 8 a.m. with an oatmeal breakfast featuring the "World's Largest Toppings Bar" at Pioneer Elementary School, 101 East Baseline Road in Lafayette. That's followed by a 5K run; the rest of the day includes a health fair, a blood drive, a divine-smelling baking contest and more. Yum. For details, call 303-926-4352 or log on to www.lafayetteoatmealfestival.com.
Health nuts can explore another angle today at the first annual Women's Wellness Expo, sponsored by Conceptions Women's Health and Fertility Specialists. It's an all-inclusive, gals-only event that goes above and beyond those particular health issues usually explored by the hosting group. You'll learn more about everything from plastic surgery to hormone replacement therapy, get screened for osteoporosis or tested for body fat, and go home clutching spa and salon discount coupons in your hot little hands. The Wellness Expo runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Conceptions, 271 West County Line Road, Littleton; call 303-738-5318 for additional information.
Sunday, January 11
You bought, bought, bought and returned, returned, returned. Now it's time to browse again -- perchance to buy. There's no place more fun to do it than at the Toy and Doll Supershow, a monthly showcase of Barbie dolls, Star Wars action figures, Hot Wheels cars and other vintage goodies, proffered by more than 65 chatty regional collectibles vendors. Whether you're just looking to relive your second childhood or really want to take some of this stuff home with you, the supershow takes place today (and every second Sunday of the month) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Embassy Suites Denver Southeast, 7525 East Hampden Avenue. Admission is only $3 (children under twelve admitted free); call 303-347-8252.
Monday, January 12
Old Ullr: They've done this every winter for God knows how many years in Breckenridge, but it seems to work, at least most of the time (severe drought years notwithstanding). The whole point of Ullr Fest, the Summit county ski town's annual tribute to the mythical Norse god of snow, is to make snow and make merry. This year's snowapalooza, which began Friday, switches into overdrive tonight with the Ullr Fest Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Event at the Gold Run Nordic Center. The evening kicks off with a tramp through the snow at 5:30 p.m., followed by an indoor party; tomorrow at 6:15 p.m., a skating party at West Rink will keep participants active; and the wacky Ullympics, featuring frying-pan tosses and other silly competitions, takes place at Riverwalk from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. Thursday's Ullr Fest Parade and next Friday's comedy night top off the proceedings; honorary Breckenridge residents the Budweiser Clydesdales will also be out and about throughout the week. Lodging packages begin at $175; for details, call 1-877-864-0868 or log on to www.gobreckevents.com.