Thrills for the week

July 3
War zone: The air is warm and soft, summer's at its peak and it's the glorious start of a long holiday weekend--perfect conditions for a night of dancing in the street. And few bands lend themselves to that purpose better than '70s funk 'n' rollers War, guests tonight during Summer Nights on Larimer Square, a free evening of live urban music under the stars. Food and drink vendors and wandering street performers contribute to the party atmosphere, so come on down: The fun takes place between 6 and 11, rain or shine. Call 607-1276 for details.

Blanket statements: A community-oriented cinema event dishes up unusual fare on an outdoor screen this summer at El Centro Su Teatro, 4725 High St. Now in its third year, the cultural center's Latino Film Series takes the alternative route, presenting rarely seen, experimental and political works by emerging Latino filmmakers at dusk (8:15 to 8:30 p.m.) in the facility's north yard. Billed as being "like a drive-in, only you walk," the picnic-style series also features refreshments; viewers are urged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. The festival, offered on Thursday nights in July, kicks off today with a satirical doubleheader, NaftaAzteca: Cyber-Aztec TV for 2000 A.D. and Columbus on Trial; admission is free. Call 296-0219.

July 4
Lights fantastic: Like your first bite of watermelon in summer, the Fourth of July is fraught with a delicious sense of anticipation: As the sun falls and the mosquitoes come out and the stars begin to twinkle, you already smell the gunpowder, even before the first fireworks ignite. You may not give a fig about patriotism any other day of the year, but the Fourth, alight with glittery surprises, may be different. So stars and stripes forever! Here are a few ways for you and the family to unfurl:

Start your holiday with a bang--or at least a huff and a puff--at the Founders Funds LoDo 5280 8K road race, a rise-and-shine fundraiser benefiting Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. A wheelchair roll leads off the downtown run at 8 in front of Coors Field, 21st and Blake streets, followed a minute later by a wave of racing foot soldiers; walkers bring up the rear beginning at 8:20. Judges at the halfway mark will be evaluating outrageous costumes, so don't be afraid to wear one--you might win some extra July 4th payola for your efforts. Entry fees are $18 in advance ($22 on race day); call 541-3705 for registration information.

The Gold Hill Inn, above Boulder in rustic Gold Hill, hosts its annual Blues-Grass BBQ, fulfilling all your best and brightest picnic fantasies with mouthwatering "Q" and smokin' live music today from noon to 6. Charles Sawtelle and the Whippets headline with Richard Greene; Mollie O'Brien, Scott Nygaard and Mary Russell also perform. Music-only admission is $10 (your pick of the eats is $10 extra); call 443-6461.

If you're looking for an old-fashioned family Fourth, today's ongoing celebration at Hudson Gardens, 6303 S. Santa Fe Dr., has all the right stuff. The gardens, already an eye-opening spectacle in and of themselves, provide a pastoral setting for an entire day of fun, beginning with an 8 a.m. pancake breakfast and ending around 9 p.m. with prime riverside seating for the Columbine Country Club's nearby fireworks display. In between, there'll be live music, a 1920s costume contest, a rubber-duck race, an ice-cream social and plenty of time to wander through the lovely gardens. Gate admission ranges from $1 to $2; a hand stamp allows you to come and go throughout the day. Call 797-8565.

The Children's Museum of Denver, 2121 Children's Museum Dr., promises a fanciful midsummer night's dream evening with a 7 p.m. Twilight Theater, featuring a flamboyant troupe of Colorado Renaissance festival performers, a raptor show and, finally, a fine view of all the 'works in the Central Platte Valley. In addition, all exhibits at the museum will be open until 8; admission is $2 to $5 (kids under one free). Bring a picnic, have some fun and plant your eyes on the sky; for details call 433-7444.

Plan your own Summit of the Fourth at The Fort, U.S. 285 at Hwy. 8 in Morrison, where world leaders dined on buffalo and quail just a couple of weeks ago. In honor of the birth of a nation, Sam Arnold's culinary and touristy landmark will fire its classic Howitzer and Napoleon cannons, then serve up early-Coloradan cocktails, Wild West cuisine and an extraordinary view of fireworks shows across the metro area from its highfalutin' foothills patio. Reservations are recommended; call 697-4771.

Hear the Fourth of July muse full-blast when the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, led by pops-conductor extraordinaire Newton Wayland, booms at Fiddler's Green, 6350 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., tonight at 8. The Blue Knights drum-and-bugle corps and vocalists Katherine Terrell and Lew von Schlanbusch join in for an all-American evening topped with fireworks; for tickets, $8 to $18, call 830-TIXS.

Stargazers will see more than the usual constellations tonight at Copper Mountain Resort, where the six-day Astronomical League Convention convened on July 1. Today's convention activities include a barbecue buffet with telescope viewing and fireworks, and the public is welcome to participate; you can purchase a $25 day pass at the Copper Mountain Convention Center registration desk. For more information call 871-2135.

And for you peace-mongering nerds who just want to get away from it all on the Fourth, there's an Astronomy Celebration with Ranger Mary Bonnell at 8:30 p.m. at Roxborough State Park, 4751 N. Roxborough Dr., Littleton. No fireworks, please; reservations and a $4 park pass are required. Call 973-3959.

Ole mole: Offering time-honored Fourth fun but with a flavor all its own is the annual Cherry Creek Arts Festival, happening this weekend on the streets of Cherry Creek North. This year's event will have a Mexican flair, with a special area featuring performance art, music and dance from south of the border; as always, the rest of the fest will be lined end to end with juried fine art of all shapes, sizes and styles, sophisticated food and drink vendors and all manner of live performers. Attend the festival from 10 to 8 today, 9 to 8 tomorrow and 10 to 6 Sunday; for more information call 355-ARTS.

July 5
Let's put on a show: A pair of musical favorites highlight this year's run of the Colorado Lyric Theatre Festival at CU-Boulder, an annual showcase for the university's excellent lyric-theater program. The Pirates of Penzance, one of Gilbert and Sullivan's best-loved comic operettas, and The Fantasticks, one of Broadway's longest-running hits, will be staged in repertory; performances, beginning tonight at 8 with Pirates and running through July 26, take place in the Music Theatre in the Imig Music Building, 18th and Euclid on the CU-Boulder campus. Tickets are $16; call 492-8008 for showtimes and reservations.

July 6
The hills are alive: You can't go wrong with Beethoven: That's a good enough reason to pay a visit tonight to the Colorado Music Festival. But the summer festival's first-class aggregation of fine musicians from orchestras worldwide seals the deal, making it an annual must-have experience for area classical-music lovers. Tonight's concert, which begins at 8 in the festival's home base, Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder, is an all-Beethoven affair; guest pianist Giovanni Bellucci and conductor Giora Bernstein oversee the action. Festival seating prices range from $6 to $35 per concert (subscription packages available); for a schedule, reservations or other information, call 449-2413. The festival continues through August 15.

July 7
The world according to Russo: Humor and storytelling come together in a state of near perfection in the heartbreakingly human yarns of Richard Russo, whose new book, Straight Man, pokes fun at life and the literary industry. Also the author of Nobody's Fool, which became a memorable Paul Newman vehicle when adapted to film, Russo will tickle your bookish funnybone when he reads tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. Call 322-7727 for more information.

July 8
Down and dirty: Have you ever had a hankering to go underground? How about doing it in a working mineshaft, where miners with smudged faces do things pretty much the way they did a century ago, when Colorado's mining history was at its zenith? When the Denver Museum of Natural History hosts a Colorado Mining History Tour today at the Idaho Springs Phoenix Goldmine, you'll have a chance to do just that, as well as listen to tales of gold-boom lore. Afterward, you can pan for gold yourself or simply ruminate on the past over a buffet lunch provided in charming Georgetown. Cost of the tour, which includes motorcoach transportation, lunch and all activities, is $59 ($56 DMNH members). Space is limited; call 370-6304 for reservations.

July 9
Yard bird: Children's entertainer, local folkie and prize-winning autoharpist Bonnie Phipps brings star quality to this evening's outdoor Swallow Hill Picnic Concert, beginning at 6--where else?--under the sun in the Swallow Hill Music Hall's fine backyard. The whole family will enjoy this mid-week, join-in songfest, so bring a nice, big blanket, a basket of goodies and lots of kids. All tickets are $2; call 777-1003. Swallow Hill is located at 1905 S. Pearl St.


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