Many Christmas mornings from my childhood stand out, but one occupies a special place. That vivid year, after the presents were opened and the stockings pilfered, we turned our attention to our beloved pets. The dogs found their way to their Yule bones as our curious cats began sniffing the air. Then my mother removed several strips of catnip from a stocking and placed them in front of our felines. Within seconds, they lost it. Leaping into the air, gyrating and undulating in orgiastic fits, the cats howled with wicked delight, spraying urine onto the ceiling and walls to honor the birth of the baby Jesus. We quickly threw the drug out the window, but it didn't do any good; the kitties still had several minutes of spastic explosions left. We were powerless to stop them.
As my father patiently scrubbed down the walls later that day, I remember thinking he ought to win an award, some memento to celebrate his incredible patience and deep-down love for our cats.
If only the Meow Mix Golden Games had been around back then.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, Denver's feline fanatics can compete for the title of "America's Top Cat Lover," at the annual KidSpree festival at Bicentennial Park, East Alameda Avenue and Potomac Street. Cat lovers will demonstrate their love for their pets in a series of events, including "Hairball Toss," "Litterbox Cleanup" and "Victory Lap." Contestants will compete for prizes, and ultimately one lucky national winner culled from similar events across the country will receive a diamond cat collar, as well as a custom pendant, valued at $5,000. All the kitty-loving contests are free, and cats are welcome, although not integral to the fun. Log on to www.meowmix.com for more information.
Representatives from the Aurora Animal Shelter as well as the Alley Cat Allies will be on hand, hoping to find foster homes for homeless cats. For every person who participates in the festivities, Meow Mix will donate a pound of cat food to the two shelters.
So come out to prove your devotion to your furry friends, and celebrate what my parents and other feline fanciers well know: There's just something special about cats. -- Adam Cayton-Holland
Soul Rebel Festival jams
The Soul Rebel Festival is a double delight for those who like their Jah jams packaged with great causes. Sponsored by the Boulder-based Ujama News, the daylong music festival benefits the University of Colorado's Black Biomedical Research Movement, which aims to raise health consciousness among the black community. Soul Rebel also memorializes Wachen Vieira, a CU student who was murdered in Boulder two years ago. Born in Angola, Vieira was a talented reggae and hip-hop artist who surely would have approved of Soul Rebel's global flavor; the ten artists hail from as far away as the Ivory Coast and as near as the Western Slope. Headliner Sister Carol was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and bred in Brooklyn, New York; her style reflects the big city as much as the Caribbean. The four-piece Yellow Wall Dub Sound is led by guitarist Fazel Prendergast, who was schooled by listening to fellow Jamaican artists like Augustus Pablo, as well as Jimi Hendrix. Local acts also contribute some heavy soul, with Musa Konate and the Lost Tribe, Denver's Lion SoulJahs and Grand Junction's Lion Vibes appearing. Konate moved to Boulder three years ago after touring the globe and performing with such world-music superstars as Habib Koite and Toumani Diabaté.
Soul Rebel promises a lot of music -- and good vibes -- for one day. The festival runs from noon until dusk today at the Boulder Reservoir, 5100 North 51st Street. Tickets are available at the Boulder Theater box office; for more information, call 303-786-7030 or go to www. reggaemovement.com/festivals/soulrebel.htm. Then wake up and live it. -- Laura Bond
Bluegrass Over Yonder
Boulder's KGNU will go tell it on the mountain today at the Charles Sawtelle GNU Mountain Jam. Rechristened in honor of the late Hot Rize guitarist and longtime Jam music director who died in 1999, the annual celebration of both barbecue and bluegrass brings several prominent acts to the Gold Hill Inn, 401 Main Street in Gold Hill. Richard Greene, hailed as one of the most creative and influential fiddle players of all time, will perform with Rich Moore and Pete and Joan Wernick; Greene is perhaps best known for pioneering the electric violin with his revolutionary folk-rock group, Seatrain. Also performing will be One Lucky Guy, a Boulder-based band featuring Pat Alger on bass, Adrienne Yauk on dobro, Terry Strassmann on guitar and Jim Hilburn on mandolin and guitar. The group describes its music as "exactly like bluegrassonly different," and is adept at folk and country tunes, too. And several other worthy combos will lend their talents to "the Charles," which runs from noon to 5 p.m. today.
In addition to music, "the Charles" will serve homemade, Texas-style barbecue, brats from Boulder Sausage, vegetarian-friendly options and beer from several local microbreweries. Tickets -- $12 for KGNU members, $15 for the masses -- can be purchased at 303-449-4885. -- Adam Cayton-Holland
Dating Game stresses fun, not contestants
Nothing soothes those dating jitters better than asking bizarre questions contrived by a stranger.
That's the theory behind tonight's mock Dating Game sponsored by the Christian Singles Network at the Cambridge in the Foothills clubhouse, 12046 West Cross Drive, Littleton. The mixer's church affiliation doesn't mean that single agnostics aren't also welcome. Linda Williams, director of the local group, says the Christian Singles Network's involvement simply ensures that "we do things in a decent manner, and there won't be alcohol or smoking." That means that any stimulation will come from the game itself, modeled after the vintage TV show. Four male contestants will get the chance to pick a match from a panel of four coeds. Unlike the Hollywood deal, however, no end-of-the-show date is required. And also unlike the original show, the contestants here won't come up with questions to ask the array of suitors. Instead, organizers will provide the queries.
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That could lead to some creative questions. For example, someone might ask, "Bachelor number one, what kind of nasal decongestant do you prefer?" Or, "Bachelor number two, how much do you think I weigh?"
But contestants needn't be too wary. The probes are intended to "bring out people's personalities, and to show the people's sense of humor," says Williams. Attendees who are skeptical can choose not to submit their names in the drawing for contestants, and simply watch the fun.
The show runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door; attendance is limited to fifty women and fifty men. Call 720-842-5272 for more information. -- Caitlin Smith