One of the big-city touches that Denver has always had down cold is the tradition of the downtown street fair. If nothing else, we know how to throw a party. And now we can add the Festival Italiano to all of the old faves. Things begin tonight, sort of, with a free outdoor screening of that sentimental favorite and classic firebug flick Cinema Paradiso, at 7:30 p.m. in the atrium of the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets. The fest takes off from there by shutting down for the night.
Things really get going tomorrow, at the Belmar complex in Lakewood, with a kids' storytime featuring Italian children's stories (you know, like The Godfather Part III), food, chef demonstrations from our own local celebs, more food, Italian-language lessons, and -- in a move that should be adopted by street celebrations everywhere -- the opening of the winegarden bright and early, at 10:30 in the morning. There will also be Italian dancers, flag- throwers, artists and what organizers describe as "strolling characters" wandering the grounds all day. At any moment and without warning, you could be minding your own business, maybe getting a little snockered on cheap lambrusco, and suddenly be accosted by Sandro Botticelli or stuck in a conversation about effective birth control with Gabriele Falloppio (inventor of the condom) -- when all you really wanted was a quick drink, maybe some funnel cake, and a turn in the bocce ball tournament that will also be going on all day. Mamma mia!
The day wraps up with the banchetto Italiano -- an al fresco Italian feast held from 6 to 9 p.m. and benefiting the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. Tickets for the banchetto are $150 a pop, but for that green, you'll get to see some of Denver's finest eye-tie hash-slingers (namely, cooks from 240 Union, Campo de Fiori, Luca D'Italia, Mel's, Strings, Solera, Table 6, Tuscany, Venice and more) trying to work out in the open, outside their own kitchens, with partners they're unfamiliar with, and still serving five courses to 700 people without the entire scene devolving into one huge Lord of the Flies riot when the pasta course doesn't come out on time.
Belmar is at the corner of Alameda Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard. For information about the festival, or for tickets to the banchetto, call 303-742-1520 or visit www. belmarcolorado.com. -- Jason Sheehan
A toast to beer, brats and Boulder
Snag some suds with a dab of oom pah pah: It's hops harvest time, Flatirons style. Today through Sunday, the eighteenth Downtown Boulder Fall Festival brews up an Oktoberfest-flavored bash on Pearl Street with food, music and bellywash galore. The ever-essential Beer Garden will be thoroughly stocked with Colorado concoctions and Boulder's most infamous micro-swills, with a karaoke party to entice revelers to get their yodel on. In addition, the event will feature more than 65 artist booths, as well as street performers and an art show. Tomorrow and Sunday, the sun shines a little more Kinder-friendly, with carnival rides, feathered friends from the Raptor Society and a bungee trampoline. But the evening hours promise the return of the thirsty to fill their steins under the autumn moon.
The Hazel Miller Band, Wendy Woo and the 17th Avenue All Stars are just a few of the hometown rockers that will share the non-stop music stage with Texas import Brave Combo, which recently grabbed a few minutes of animated fame playing Lone Star-flavored polka for Springfield's Oktoberfest on The Simpsons. (Quoth Homer: "Ah, good ol' trustworthy beer -- my love for you will never die.")
The chugalug rolls out tonight on Pearl Street between 11th and 15th streets from 5 to 10 p.m. For more information, call 303-449-3774 or visit www.boulderdowntown.com. -- Kity Ironton
What if Denver's public schools didn't have any music? With any luck, that question will be moot as a result of efforts such as tonight's DPS Music Education Benefit Jazz Concert. More than twenty top artists who played in the Denver City Wide High School Jazz Combo from 1978 to 1987 will cut loose with their best chops for this youth benefit. They'll share a mix of originals and covers in styles from Latin fusion to swing and bebop, paying tribute to teacher/director and pianist Neil Bridge, who founded the combo.
"We've organized this event to reinforce the value of music education in public schools," says Bridge. "Music is a true expression of the human spirit, and it's vital that every student has the opportunity to experience it."
Money collected from the concert will help potential young instrumentalists get involved in music. The baton drops at 7:30 p.m. at the Denver School of the Arts, 7111 Montview Boulevard. Tickets are $5 to $10 in advance at 303-825-1116 or www.karenleedance.com, or $7 to $15 at the door. For more information, call 303-321-9435. -- Richard Kellerhals
The ZATA auction helps the Zimbabwe AIDS effort
When the monumental Chapungu sculpture exhibition rolled into the Denver Botanic Gardens last spring, one upshot was an increased interest locally in the collection's home country of Zimbabwe. And while it opened our eyes to rarely seen treasures of that African nation, it also reminded us of Zimbabwe's struggles, including the devastating onslaught of AIDS among its people. Part of that AIDS story rests here. Several years ago, the School of Medicine in Harare, Zimbabwe, hooked up with the CU School of Medicine's AIDS trial unit to develop new treatments. It happened in part because there were so many more subjects to study in Zimbabwe, but as CU's research drew to a close, local physicians saw an opportunity to continue their good works there.
The hitch? Money. "If we bought the drugs they need here and sent them over, we'd pay ten times the price," says Tina Campbell, spokeswoman for the Zimbabwe AIDS Assistance Treatment Project. "Doctors there can buy at them at a fraction of the cost."
To that end, the ZATA Project Artwork Auction, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Denver, 555 17th Avenue, will offer works of Zimbabwean art, including a small Chapungu sculpture, to raise funds for the venture. Admission is $45; call 303-770-05436 or go to www.zataproject.org. -- Susan Froyd