Get a load off: You can have too much of a good thing, and it never becomes more evident than on Thanksgiving Day, when the dinner table, covered with mounds of food, suddenly resembles a fire sale at Macy's. Doesn't your belt tighten around your waist just thinking about it? Well, catch it while you can: The City of Aurora and the Beck Recreation Center invite you to Huff-N-Puff Before You Stuff this morning between 6 and noon, when various strenuous activities ranging from lap swimming to step aerobics will be available--free--to all comers ages twelve and up. All you have to do--besides the work, that is--is bring a couple of cans of food and/or a personal-care item to donate. The center is at 800 Telluride St.; for information and an activities schedule, call 739-6886. Now, how about some mashed potatoes and gravy?
Give it your best shot: You have plenty to give thanks for--but what about folks who don't? There are a million ways you can help those less fortunate; here are just a few:
Don't dump that doll. As long as she's not missing any essential parts, the Dolls & Kids Closet, 5501 S. Broadway, Littleton, will make her over, dress her in a new outfit and donate the refurbished toy to St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, which will in turn distribute it, along with others, to needy and at-risk children. Drop off your dollies between 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; call 738-0490.
Another program that understands how much the little things count is collecting something you might not have thought of yourself. The Curtis Park Community Center, which operates Denver's only daycare shelter for homeless kids, has a great need for disposable diapers. Donation boxes for the Metro Area Diaper Project are available in office waiting rooms of thirty metro-area pediatricians and pediatric dentists throughout November; for more information on where to leave diapers (other infant items are needed as well), call your own pediatrician's office or Greenwood Pediatrics, 694-3200.
Finally, the Salvation Army, granddaddy of service agencies, can always use donations of food, clothing and cash--not to mention volunteer bell-ringers to oversee the army's familiar kettle sites and willing bodies to help sort and prepare food baskets. In addition to putting on today's annual massive Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless (noon-1 p.m., Currigan Hall, 1324 Champa St.), the organization sponsors holiday Giving Trees at Wal-Mart stores and shopping malls across the region, canned-food drop-off bins at local markets, and an Adopt-A-Family program that distributes Christmas gifts and groceries to needy families. For information on how to volunteer or make a donation, call 866-9280.
King of the hillbillies: After you get your fill today, what you may need is some rock and roll. The Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave., is throwing a real gone Thanksgiving-night show featuring retro-country sensation Wayne "The Train" Hancock and San Francisco's raucous rockabillies, the Sugar King Boys. No sitting down allowed--the music begins at 9. For tickets, $7, call 322-2308.
The beat goes on: If you're one of those folks who are forever lamenting the way Christmas blots out all other observances in its path, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble has your ticket: The troupe's annual Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum performances greet a more multicultural, rainbow-hued holiday season with a contagious shot of joy and energy. From Kwanzaa to the Chinese New Year, winter celebrations of every ilk get the nod from Robinson; join in tonight and tomorrow at 8 or Sunday at 2 at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Tickets range from $15 to $35; for reservations call 295-1759 or 830-TIXS.
Rally round the tree: Year after year, Larimer Square does an old-fashioned Yuletide up right during the Larimer Square Winterfest, and it's a sight to behold--from the fragrant centerpiece, touted to be Denver's tallest Christmas tree, to the myriad trimmings offered around it: Santa's workshop, a Nutcracker Salon for face-painting, a fabulous gingerbread model of the square, carolers, carriage rides and festive decorations. There's shopping, of course, but you might just choose to let everything slide--the square's busy outdoor ice rink will be open for business daily ($3 admission, $1 skate rental) through January 1. Winterfest fun begins tonight with a tree-lighting ceremony at 6 and continues weekends through New Year's Day; call 607-1276 for details.
Whatever works: There's nothing like a day off to make you appreciate how hard you actually work. But you're not alone in the rat race; you and anyone else who punches the clock will go gaga over Livelihood, a new PBS series hosted by Will Durst, the engaging political comic known for his martini-dry wit. Join Durst, who visits (in the vein of Studs Terkel's classic tome, Working) with career telephone operators, travel agents and coal miners in the first installment, tonight at 9 on KRMA-TV/Channel 6.
Orchestral maneuvers: Here's something to dance about--the Colorado Ballet's annual production of the The Nutcracker will feature live music instead of the canned variety originally planned when it opens for the holidays today at the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. The dance classic, sugar plum fairies and all, debuts at 2 with a special family matinee featuring activities and games for the kids along with the ballet itself; performances continue through December 28. Admission ranges from $14 to $50; call 830-TIXS for a schedule and tickets.
Cone zone: It's a small and sweet way to welcome the holidays, decidedly folksy and un-hoopla-esque. The Fort Restaurant, 19192 Rte. 8, Morrison, hosts a Farolito Lighting Ceremony today from 4 to 6, in which participants tuck a piece of paper with a loved one's name written on it into a pine cone (it's a BYOPC event) and toss the cones, en masse, into a bonfire, sending the sparking messages aloft. While that warms your heart, apple cider and gingerbread cookies will warm your innards; this year's event also doubles as a tribute to Denver developer and preservationist Dana Crawford. Admission is free, but reservations are requested for an accurate cookie count; call 697-4771.
Harmonic convergence: Some of the most unusual human-made sounds ever to reach the ear will intersect tonight at the Boulder Theater when the eerie Bulgarian Voices--Angelite and Tuvinian throat-singing combo Huun-Huur Tu, direct from the lonely Siberian steppes, join forces at 7:30 for an evening of haunting harmonics and astounding mimetic vocal tones. World music has never sounded so wonderful--or so weird. The theater is located at 2030 14th St. in Boulder; for tickets, $23.10, call 786-7030 or 830-TIXS.
Know your enemy: Solidarity, action and expression of grief form a solid foundation under World AIDS Day, a growing annual rite that pays tribute to the many lives lost to AIDS while looking to a more positive future for those still living with it.
This year Denver pays respects in a big way, with a major exhibition of 600 squares from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, on display today from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Tivoli Turnhalle, located in the Tivoli Student Union, 900 Auraria Pkwy. Admission is free; call 312-0811. In conjunction with the quilt showing, the massed Colorado Quilt Chorus performs a benefit concert tonight at 8 at Montview Presbyterian Church, 1980 Dahlia St.; included is the U.S. premiere of composer Gareth Valentine's Requiem in Memory of All Those Who Have Died of AIDS. Tickets range from $15 to $100 and benefit various local AIDS programs; call 355-9941.
And if you just want some information but aren't sure where to get it, the National AIDS Hotline can be reached any day, around the clock, at the following numbers: 1-800-342-2437; Spanish-language, 1-800-344-7432; and TTY for the Deaf, 1-800-243-7889.
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A light in the forest: Few holiday events sparkle more brightly in the little ones' eyes than Wildlights, the Denver Zoo's annual December nighttime festivities exemplified by otherwordly twinkling lights, animal sculptures, hot chocolate stops, and seals arfing in the dark. Wildlights opens for the season tonight and continues nightly from 5:30 to 9:30, through December 31; admission is $3 to $5 (children under three get in free). Special Daylight Savings tickets--combining regular zoo admission with Wildlights access--are also available for $5 to $7 (kids under three still free). Donate a non-perishable food item and get a buck knocked off your entrance fee; for more information call 331-4100.
Little boxes: Visual artist Susan Leopold is concerned with big, creepy issues, like the politics of watching and being watched, and she explores them in large installations that incorporate mirrors, video cameras, windows and other voyeuristic tools. But sometimes she clusters them in the smallest packages--tiny box constructions housing city scenes. Leopold, in town as part of the CU-Boulder Visiting Artist Program, will discuss her work tonight at 8 at the Sibell-Wolle Fine Arts Building, 18th and Euclid on the CU-Boulder campus; admission to the lecture is free. Call 492-6504.
Hiatt times: Sometimes you just gotta have a song, that quintessential bundle of poetry and melody that expresses your feelings for you better than you could yourself. John Hiatt, who does that better than just about anyone else (with a gruff, growling voice you'd love to claim as your own), aims to please tonight at 8 at the Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax Ave., when he appears with a hand-picked band in tow. Tickets are $22.50; call 830-2525 to reserve yours.
Second lady of song: Ella was the first, but Dee Dee Bridgewater clearly pulls her own vocal weight on stage, whether she's crooning a tribute to Fitzgerald, letting loose with an elegant slice of Ellingtonia or grooving to one of Horace Silver's funky compositions. Bridgewater sings her heart out in pyrotechnic style tonight at 8 at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder, ushering in the winter leg of that venue's fine jazz series. Tickets are $16, $18 and $22; call 786-7030 for reservations.