Go Fourth: You won't have to look far today to find a bang-up time, but our advice is to simply look up: That's where the real fireworks happen. The former Stapleton Airport will be Pyrotechnics Central when it hosts the Sky Art Festival '96, a combined two-day oldies music fest and humongous fireworks display. Live entertainment, arts and crafts booths, a food court and a children's area begin daily at 1 p.m.; later in the evening, nostalgic acts the Rascals and the Turtles (tonight) and Tommy James and the Drifters (tomorrow) perform before the sky lights up with what's being touted as one of the largest such displays west of the Mississippi. To purchase tickets, $12 each day (children six and under free), call 1-800-444-SEAT or drop by your local King Soopers store. On the other hand, here's one dino-mite July 4 activity that will keep your eyes on the ground. Dinosaur Ridge, a foothills paleontological museum known for the carefully preserved dinosaur tracks traversing its hogbacked turf, will hold one of its monthly Open Ridge Days, featuring knowledgeable guides explaining the scientific particulars of various stops along the ridge, today from 10 to 4. Visitors may cover the two-mile round-trip tour on foot or, for $2 (children under three free), ride a bus one way up the hill and walk back down it. Parking is available at Alameda Pkwy. and Rooney Rd., Golden; for information call 697-DINO.
Best fest in the West: Most everyone who attends agrees: Cruising the Cherry Creek Arts Festival makes for a fabulous Fourth, give or take a couple of days. The arts fair--which runs today through Saturday and spotlights the works of 200 artists from hereabouts and beyond--takes on a Francophilic bent this year by featuring a special area devoted to a group of Parisian artists, a French cafe and a video exhibit on Gallic culture. The festival also is home to a plethora of food and drink vendors, along with ten entertainment stages offering a variety of live music (including recording artists Taj Mahal and Dar Williams, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and French pop/rock group Marousse), dance performances, cooking and artist demonstrations, and returning celebrity-portrait-painter Denny Dent, who frantically fills his gigantic canvases to a rock-and-roll score several times daily. The fest, which spreads out up and down Second and Third avenues between Clayton and Steele streets in Cherry Creek North, is open from 10 to 7 today and 10 to 8 Friday and Saturday. Admission is free, but considering the dazzling selection of artworks, jewelry and food available, you just may want to buy something. Be prepared.
Lost in space: An original show created and performed by three disparate yet somehow compatible women, Unidentified Female Objects: They're Out There mixes up the comedic trio's religious, lesbian and feminist ideologies for a stimulating and just plain funny evening. Local playwright/director Edith Weiss and performance artists Nancy Norton and Teresa Logan, stand-up comics all, join forces tonight and tomorrow night at 8 at the Avenue Theater, 2119 E. 17th Ave., as they wrap up a four-week run sponsored by the Women's International Theatre Festival. For information and reservations call 321-5925.
Modern-day folklore: Austin guitar wunderkind Ian Moore, who's toured with Joe Ely and the Rolling Stones, defines folk music as "the music of a generation," implying hopefully that his own socially relevant work, a blend of singer-songwriter sensibility and pure rock riffing, could simply be the music of its time. Moore, along with California roots rockers the Mother Hips, performs tonight at 8 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax (tickets are $8; call 322-2308 or 830-TIXS), and tomorrow night at 9:15 at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder (tickets are $6.30; call 447-0095 or 830-TIXS). See him now--you may live long enough to tell your grandchildren about it.
Both sides now: Anyone who's seen Richard Thompson perform with a band knows the man has devilish, inventive guitar chops and a macabre sense of humor. And he rocks, too. But his solo performances are where he really turns on the dry wit and charm. Thompson's recent double-decker CD, you?me?us?, explores both performance personae, giving his electric and acoustic deliveries equal time. He'll stick with the latter tonight when he performs at the Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Rd., Boulder. Joining Thompson on the bill for a stunning cult-favorite evening (so stunning, in fact, that the folks at Chautauqua have scheduled two shows, at 4:30 and 8:30 p.m.) is complete woman Joan Armatrading, who provides her own sharp guitar work as she sings her tough, sweet and private tunes. Tickets range from $25 to $32; call 440-7666 or 830-TIXS.
Type cast: And now for something completely different: Bleeding TVs of Angels II, taking place tonight from 7 to 11 at the Mercury Cafe, is a bohemian, interactive performance event for poets, musicians, spontaneous big talkers and adventurous dreamers. Typewriters and tape recorders will be distributed among teams of two or more people, who will use the tools to document whatever they choose to write, talk, sing or otherwise emote. Eventually, the seeming chaos culminates with a member of each group reading and/or performing parts of the impromptu material for the rest of the audience. The event is free--in more ways than one. The Merc is located at 2199 California St.
The gospel truth: This year's Denver Black Arts Festival, celebrating its tenth anniversary, now features seven full days of events, leading up to and including next weekend's open-air fair at City Park. Kicking things off today in style, festival planners will host a history and goodwill tour of three local African-American churches between 1 and 5 p.m., topping it off at Shorter AME Church, Martin Luther King and Colorado boulevards, with a community dialogue at 6 and a gospel-music concert with the Colorado Mass Choir at 7:30. Events continue with a mural tour of the Five Points area tomorrow from 4 to 8 and a family day at Elitch Gardens Tuesday. For information about these and other festival functions, call 293-2559.
Murder plot: Local author Ann Ripley has come up with yet another garden-variety murder mystery in which her dabbling sleuth-cum-organic gardener Louise Eldridge (any relation to Sam Spade?) digs up the clues and turns over the plot. Ripley will read from and autograph copies of Death of a Garden Pest--a delight for anyone who loves good dirt--tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. For details call 322-7727.
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Adam's eve: A former Saturday Night Live cast member and writer, comedian Adam Sandler made a name for himself roaring through rock impersonations, delivering off-the-cuff ditties and creating odd characters such as Cajun Man, Canteen Boy and the obsessive host of the Denise Show before moving on to a movie career. But Sandler hasn't forsaken the stage altogether. He brings his singular shtick and cockeyed delivery to the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl., tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30. Admission ranges from $22.50 to $25; call 830-TIXS to reserve tickets.
One step dance at a time: A new tradition returning for a second year, Swallow Hill Picnic Concerts--held every second and fourth Wednesday during the summer months--are as casual as a backyard barbecue, which isn't surprising, considering that they take place in the backyard of the Swallow Hill Music Hall, 1905 S. Pearl St. And the inexpensive price tag, quality folk entertainment and cushy expanse of lawn space for blankets and picnic baskets make them ideal mid-week family outings. Tonight's concert, beginning at 6:30, features Irish step dancers from champion stepper Linnane Wick's School of Irish Dancing, who will rock and reel their way through a repertoire of set dances, jigs and hornpipes. Tickets are $2; bring your clan and your own food. Call 777-1003 for information.
Shake, rattle and roll: Are you all wrapped up in a new-found hockey obsession with nowhere to go? Never fear--while the Avs vacation, there's still roller hockey to reckon with at McNichols Arena. The Denver DareDevils trade in blades for wheels when they take to the floor, but the action will be just as fast and furious when they take on the Vancouver VooDoo tonight at 7. Tickets are $14 ($8 children under sixteen; $36 for a family of four); call 830-