A local staple for eleven years, the Colorado Performing Arts Festival offers locals an opportunity to revel in homegrown arts, whether it be music, theater, dance, or something a touch more avant-garde. Visitors to the 2002 event, held in late September at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, saw Aztec dancers, story weavers, poetry jazz and even kids' comedians. But the best part is that there's no charge to discover the talent lingering within our city limits.


This annual celebration of hickory-smoked meats and serious sauce (sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society) is the high country's best family-style blowout. Visitors sample 'cue from more than seventy of the nation's best grill and smoker masters, making the array of meat and sauce choices finger-lickin' heaven on earth. Sides of down-home, kid-friendly entertainment, a pancake breakfast and Frisco's homespun setting (and dreamy August weather) add even more sustenance to the event. Need a reason to head to the hills? This is it.


Best Place for Pasty Poets to Get a Tan

Ink!

We know, we know. Poets and sunshine go together like peanut butter and broken glass. But if you ever tire of pouring your heart out from some ratty couch in some dim, cloistered coffee shop, why not give Ink! a try? First off, they brew up some mean java, grinding beans from all over the planet and clearly explaining the flavors du jour so you don't accidentally find yourself with a light French chicory when what you wanted was a dark, powerful Sumatran. Second, when the weather is nice, sidewalk tables have a great view of the new condo complex going up on the other side of Lincoln. You poets love that urban-renewal land-rape stuff, don't you? So grab yourself a sweet, foamy latte, bring along your journal, and catch a few rays while you get a look at the real world going by. Trust us: It beats crying alone in the rain anyday.


In a time when a collection of short stories is as de rigueur for debut authors as the tell-all publishing roman a clef, Erika Krouse's Come Up and See Me Sometime, a novel in thirteen stories, is refreshingly honest and well crafted. In fact, the Boulder writer's collection of independent young women at loose ends even elicited a positive review from the notoriously persnickety New York Times Review of Books. Krause introduces each story with an epigram from Mae West, the patron saint of tough dames and wicked wit, setting the stage for a hearty mix of both.


Life, love and used-car lots. It's the stuff of vanity presses. In Up, we find Becky Pine, a recent CU graduate, looking for a life (surprise) as she picks up and moves to Los Angeles. A used-car lot takes her in, and Pine gets schooled on love, life and being a newly outed lesbian. It's a quasi-autobiographical story: Lisa Jones (not the Bullet Proof Diva and Village Voice writer) also grew up in Denver, moved to California and sold cars. Why she gave up that glamorous lifestyle to become a Denver copy editor, we can only imagine.


Greg Campbell knows a bit about adventure and horror. The Fort Collins freelance writer and dad was held at gunpoint and hung with the boys of Soldier of Fortune for his first book, The Road to Kosovo. But he upped the danger quotient in 2002's Blood Diamonds, his investigation into the Sierra Leone diamond trade. In that West African country, Campbell found villagers who'd had their hands chopped off by machetes to ensure their cooperation with the Revolutionary United Front militias; he also witnessed instances of ethnic cleansing and mass rape. In his 282-page book, he explores the role of diamonds in financing the country's civil war and terrorist organizations -- including al-Qaeda -- and their effect on everyday people. Campbell, who has given up the war-correspondent life, is currently posted Stateside, as the founding editor of the Fort Collins Weekly.
Our very own single-name artist, Avi, finally won the coveted Newbery Medal this year with his fiftieth adventure novel, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. The Brooklyn-born writer dabbles in many genres, but in Crispin, he combined historical and young adult fiction, portraying the life of a thirteen-year old peasant boy living in fourteenth-century England. The parentless lad is accused of murder and must win his freedom and find his own identity. Maybe he and Avi's next fictional character, Oscar Westerwit, the New York City "full-sized uptown romantic" squirrel, should compare notes.


Women have been trying to balance life and art since before Virginia Woolf longed for a room of her own and Tillie Olsen traded her ironing board for a typewriter. And for the past 27 years, Colorado women looking to fend off the mundane for twelve glorious months have turned to the Rocky Mountain Women's Institute. The well-connected non-profit artists' colony annually grants approximately ten artists, writers and scholars $1,250 stipends, a venue to show their finished work, and the sense of a creative life. What the winners do with their laundry is their business.


There was an international flair to the fifth annual "Writers Respond to Readers" event at the Tattered Cover, where aspiring scribes and readaholics rubbed bookmarks with known authors in a small group setting. Esmeralda Santiago, Francesca Marciano, Lynn Freed and Simon Winchester made up the eclectic writerly circle this year, suggesting that the event is crossing borders, both geographic and literary, as it grows. Authors even go so far as to give sage advice on getting from the page to the publisher.


The Old Firehouse Art Center in Longmont really knows how to throw an artwalk. The community celebration, held along the town's main drag, includes a slew of art openings, live music, artist and vendor booths, dancing, and art workshops for kids. There's the inevitable street food, of course -- hot dogs, lemonade, kettle corn and more. But what really makes Artwalk Longmont a special event are the extras: Last year, for instance, brought Geese Galore, the town's amped up version of CowParade. They kicked off the program using nineteen oversized, artist-decorated, fiberglass fowl rather than the traditional bovine beauties. And while no festival is complete without a little brawling in the streets, the Artwalk's was just a bit more civilized, with the Longmont Theater Company staging exciting Shakespearean swordfights for everyone's entertainment. Touché!

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