Unlike other summertime music festivals, University Circle's 3rd Thursdays summer-concert series offers listeners two chances to check out some alfresco tunes today. Lunch and after-work audiences are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs, score some eats (Hot Sauce Williams, Uptown Grille, Rascal House, and others will set up shop at Wade Park), and groove to the free shows. Acoustic guitarist Doug Wood handles lunchtime duties; he returns with folkies Anne E. DeChant and Will Cheshier later in the afternoon. The music plays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. at University Circle's Wade Oval in Wade Park; call 216-707-5033.
And since you're in the area, HealthSpace Cleveland's A Healthy Dose of Jazz is also offering live, after-work music today. It's gonna cost you $10 to hear it, but hors d'oeuvres are promised, and a cash bar will help to make the festivities all the more festive. The Duke Jenkins Trio brings the noise from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the lower level of HealthSpace Cleveland, 8911 Euclid Avenue; call 216-231-5010.
Friday, August 20
Ohio Ballet has been performing free outdoor shows all summer. It wraps up the gratis gyrating at Tremont's Lincoln Park this weekend. Works are chosen from the troupe's extensive repertoire, and they don't skimp: Staging, sound, lighting, and costumes are all top-notch. Show times are 9 tonight and tomorrow at Lincoln Park (at West 14th Street and Starkweather Avenue). Performances are preceded by Turned Out Tikes, an interactive dance program for kids, at 7:45. Call 330-972-7900 for more info.
Saturday, August 21
Wine-tastings are for sissies, with all that sniffing, swirling, and throwing around of fancy French words. We prefer tasting beer. Doesn't matter where it comes from, as long as it's cold, cheap, and comes in packs of six. We're cleansing our palates for tonight's Belgian Beer Tasting at Café Limbo. A bunch of complex brews -- beers from Belgium are like manly wines -- will be there, as will complementary appetizers. Bluesmen Natural Facts supply the tunes. Tasting starts at 8 at Café Limbo, 12706 Larchmere Boulevard. Tickets are $15; call 216-707-3333.
For a more refined option, there's a Microbrew Tasting and Beer Garden Cookout before the Blossom Festival Band's performances tonight and tomorrow. We're pretty sure John Philip Sousa -- he of the bombastic march music -- would approve of the pre-show libations. Conductor Loras John Schissel leads the ensemble through a Sousa set (it's a 150th-birthday celebration) that includes all the hits. So go ahead and load up on five different beers from local breweries (and bratwurst and assorted salty snacks) -- "There's a Merry Brown Thrush" always sounds better after a few. Tickets to the tasting are $14; concert admission ranges from $17 to $37. It starts at 5:30 today and 4:30 tomorrow at Blossom Music Center, 1145 West Steels Corners Road in Cuyahoga Falls; call 216-231-1111.
Sunday, August 22
Baklava. Spanakopita. Moussaka. It's all Greek to us. Those eats are among the tasty dishes being served at the Grecian Festival. Hellenic dancers will do their thing in traditional folk costumes. Imported art, jewelry, and pottery will be displayed and sold. And there'll be plenty of videos, books, and records from the land that gave us Jennifer Aniston (well, her dad) at the indoor flea market. The fest happens noon to 9 p.m. at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 3352 Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights. Admission is free. Visit www.stsconstantine.com for more info.
Monday, August 23
County fairs don't get much better than the Lorain County Fair, which opens tonight. And the Lorain County Fair doesn't get much better than with its annual donkey races. More action-packed than a tractor pull and funnier than a demolition derby, the ass contest (August 26) is the very essence of one of the area's most esteemed fairs. Also joining the fun are headliners Sara Evans (looking particularly youthful after giving birth to two kids) and Kenny Rogers (looking particularly youthful after some recent Botox injections), motocross races, a rodeo, the usual rides and food, and a combine derby. It runs through August 29 at the Lorain County Fairgrounds (Ohio 18 in Wellington). It's open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Admission is $4; call 440-647-2781.
Tuesday, August 24
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has shot back some supercool images of Saturn over the past few weeks. To get an even better view of them, head over to the Nathan and Fannye Shafran Planetarium for Left Turn, Right Turn . . . Saturn! It's taken Cassini five years to get to the gassy planet, but it was well worth the trip. The program begins at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, and 1:15 and 3 p.m. Sunday through the end of the month at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Drive. Admission is $3 on top of the museum's usual $7 ($4 for kids) fee; call 216-231-4600.
Wednesday, August 25
It's not easy being an artist. In Endure, a dozen artists show just how much they suffer for their art. "I wanted artists to think about time-based work," says B.K. Smith Gallery director Lyz Bly. Pieces range from Akron photographer Ibojka Toth's daily sunrise pics to Clevelander Mike Jones's attempt to live in a tent in the gallery for 40 days. "Art is not something that just happens," Bly says. "You don't sit down and make it, and then you're done. It's part of artists' lives every day." Endure is at Lake Erie College's B.K. Smith Gallery (391 West Washington Street in Painesville) through October 15. It's open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free. For more information, call 440-639-4755 .
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