What do you do when even the funky stores all start to look alike? For some shoppers out there, that dreadful moment when sweet eclecticism degenerates into a marketing ploy could signal the end of life as you know it. But for the moment, you can put away the smelling salts: Funk is alive and well on North Tennyson Street. Already dotted with little galleries, a neighborhood hardware store, a time-honored music store, antique stores and even a hot-dog stand, the stretch of Tennyson between 38th and 44th avenues features several new pioneer retailers this fall. Start at the corner of 44th and Tennyson, where the new Parisi deli is set to open any day. At 4370 Tennyson stands Sweet Potato (303-458-1076), a kitcheny hole-in-the-wall storefront with a flair for color; inside you'll find ultra-cool retro-style Northstar refrigerators in Flamingo Pink, Mint Green, Candy Red and other nostalgic shades, handcrafted antiqued pastel wall shelves fit to hold a whole collection of your best Fiestaware, candy-hued lidded plastic bowls from Mexico and even candy cigarettes. Tucked in next door, at 4366 Tennyson, is Studio Bini (303-477-3227), the joint project of local children's clothing designer Linde Schlumbohm and artist Sandy Brudos, featuring tiny shirts and skirts in '50s cowboy prints, lush velvet fancy dresses, miniature hightop sneakers in every color of the rainbow and other kids' accoutrements. As you walk south, you'll pass Seed (303-964-1508), at 4232 Tennyson, where couture frocks by Denver designer Lula Maxine and others hang austerely.
Keep going south -- you'll soon hit the 3900 block. At 3939 Tennyson is Silvana L'Amour (303-433-0742 ), a cranny draped with inexpensive hand-beaded necklaces, filigree costume-jewelry hair clips, candles and lingerie. And one door down, just past a convenient coffeehouse, is the French Flat at 3931 Tennyson (720-941-9309), a cramped paean to French Country style aromatic with the scents of pear, lavender and nectarines and featuring quaint gold frames and mini-greenhouses built from old window frames. Stop and smell the narcissi.
Yes, Virginia, there is still funk in Denver. You just have to know where to look for it. -- Susan Froyd
Seeing the Lights
With over 375 light displays consisting of two million colored lights powered by twelve million watts of juice, it shouldn't be tough to locate the Mile High Lights drive-thru light extravaganza. The event gets glowing at Bandimere Speedway tonight from 5 to 11 p.m. and continues nightly through January 4. It features twelve illuminated scenes, including an enchanted Woodland Adventure and the patriotic Made in the USA.
"The Music Tunnel is probably my favorite, because you get to actually drive under this huge display of lights," says spokeswoman Shanna Wiseman. "It is geared toward families, but I think it would be a great date night, too."
The ride, which comprises a two-mile loop, takes about twenty minutes to complete; the cost is $15 per car. For more information or to download a $3 discount coupon, visit www.milehighlights.com. -- Julie Dunn
Bright Lights, Big City
Four Denver blocks will be aglow during Luminarias de Santa Fe, an annual holiday arts walk that illuminates Santa Fe Drive between Sixth and Tenth avenues with decorative candles and Christmas lights. "The level of participation and excitement this year is higher than it's ever been," says event coordinator Denny Thompson. "More than thirty Santa Fe art galleries will be participating with their own decorations and celebrations, making the night even more special."
Strolling entertainment will include the Grupo Tlaloc Aztec Dancers, Mariachi Aguilas, the West High School Lariat Choir, a Las Posadas procession re-enacting Mary and Joseph's search for shelter, and a bilingual Santa.
Luminarias de Santa Fe runs tonight only, from 5 to 9 p.m.; for details, visit www.newsed.org. -- Julie Dunn
Making the extreme evergreen scene
Ever seen a completely decorated Christmas tree hanging upside down from the rafters? There's one doing just that -- complete with Sponge Bob ornaments -- at Austin Gardens' Ex-Treme Xmas Tree Make-Overs. The event, which runs until Christmas, features nine wildly decorated trees, from a golden one decked out in Victorian ornaments to one emblazoned with Americana kitsch to one decorated in true Cat in the Hat style.
"I'd have to say that everyone's favorite is definitely the Native Colorado tree, which has natural grasses, berries, and fly-fishing and woodland-animal ornaments on it," says Pam Selman, the project's creative director. "What we really want to do is inspire people to use different materials in decorating their trees. It doesn't have to be a red and green Christmas every year.
"Trust me, this is not something that you're going to see at big stores like Wal-Mart or Target," Selman adds. "There are definitely a lot of interesting and unique ideas down here."
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Austin Gardens, located at 3025 West Jefferson Avenue in Englewood, is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information, call 303-670-4227. -- Julie Dunn
Viaduct Market embraces the great outdoors
Flea fans, pray for balmy winter weather: The same folks who bring you the Ballpark Market at 22nd and Larimer streets each summer will be out braving the elements at their holiday-oriented Viaduct Market, an outdoor emporium camping out under the Auraria Viaduct at Fifth and Walnut streets, just southwest of the Auraria campus and right next door to the Invesco Field light-rail station."It's literally under the viaduct, so we can't get snowed out," organizer Tim Sabus says of the unusual site, where the market is set to go on from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today only, blizzard or shine. And there will be plenty of goods to choose from: "Several of our best and most interesting vendors will be there," Sabus notes. "We'll have collectibles, jewelry, vintage clothes and furnishings and some very cool Christmas-type gift stuff you won't find anywhere else."
Get used to it. Sabus says the Viaduct Market will return on every fourth Saturday of the month in the spring. For information and a handy map, log on to www.viaductmarket.com. -- Susan Froyd