The Cleveland Orchestra kicks off the extra-long Fourth of July weekend with a Star-Spangled Spectacular Concert and Festival, its 15th annual free downtown shindig. Blossom Festival director Jahja Ling leads the orchestra through a patriotic program that includes "The Star-Spangled Banner," "America the Beautiful," and "The Stars and Stripes Forever." (Other summertime favorites, such as selections from Porgy and Bess and John Williams's Star Wars theme, also will be performed.) It all culminates in fireworks exploding over the city to the tune of a Sousa march. The pre-concert festival features food and performances by a bunch of area rock, jazz, and blues bands. It starts at 4 at Public Square; Ling strikes up the band at 9 p.m. Call 216-231-7300 for more information.
For a more cozy and intimate option, check out Cleveland Heights' weekly Party in the Heights series, a community-based, family-friendly outdoors fete filled with food, drinks, and music. (The summer schedule includes concerts by Blue Lunch, DanceAfrikaDance, and Hillbilly Idol.) This week, singer-songwriter Susan Weber performs with local roots rockers Monet's Orbit. It starts at 7 p.m. "Under the Arch," at the corner of Euclid Heights Boulevard and Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. Admission is free; call 216-371-3344.
Friday, July 2
GroundWorks Dancetheater is taking a different approach to its pair of shows this weekend. Think of the no-theme program as the troupe's greatest hits. "Any opportunity we have to keep a piece evolving is something that I'm very interested in doing," says artistic director David Shimotakahara. "This program is a little more accessible than some of the other programs we've put together. We challenge the audience and entertain them at the same time. It's [made for] summer." On the bill are the jazzy "Major to Minor," the duet "Circadian," and "The Book of Water," which premiered in April. "We're not showcasing any new works here," Shimotakahara says. "This is all stuff that we've done before. I don't know how to describe how it really connects to what we do. It's just all about dancing." Performances are at 7:30 tonight and tomorrow at Cain Park's Alma Theater, Superior Avenue and Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. Tickets range from $14 to $23, available by calling 216-371-3000.
Saturday, July 3
We love comic books. We love free comic books even more. And today is Free Comic Book Day! (Woo-hoo!) Among the local shops giving out gratis reads is Keith's Comics, which will be handing out everything from superhero epics to gritty reality dramas. So, after you check out Spider-Man 2, head over to Keith's Comics (121 East Avenue in Elyria) between 11:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., and pick up a complimentary comic. Pow! Call 440-323-2000 for more info.
Sunday, July 4
There's plenty to get excited about at today's Akron Family Barbecue -- food, a home show, rides, games, face-painting, even the Akron Idol finalists' performance -- but it's the Black Keys' headlining gig that has us pumped. The Akron duo will be playing songs from its new album, Rubber Factory, due in September. After more than a year of gigs supporting their breakthrough CD Thickfreakness, it's good to hear some new tunes -- tighter and more focused, they're the most accessible songs they've ever done -- that pack more power and flash than the fireworks that cap off the night. The fun runs from 2 to 10 p.m. at Lock 3 Live! Park (on Main Street in downtown Akron). Admission is $5. Call 330-253-2488 for more info.
Monday, July 5
The cool thing about Independence Day falling on a Sunday? Today's a federal holiday! So pull out the coolers and grills -- it's celebration time again. And while most communities held their festivals and fireworks over the weekend, Bedford apparently didn't get the memo. Good thing, because the free Bedford and Bedford Heights Independence Day Parade is sure to be a hit. (What else are you gonna do this morning, besides sleep off last night's bout of patriotic partying?) It starts at 10 a.m. at Bedford City Hall, at Center and Columbus roads, and ends at Bedford Heights City Hall. Stick around a few hours, and you can take in the Bedford Independence Day Fireworks Festivities, which include free hands-on activities for kids and plenty of airborne pyrotechnics. It starts at 6 p.m. at Chanel High School, 480 Northfield Road in Bedford. For more information, call 440-232-1600.
Tuesday, July 6
HealthSpace's The Healer Within exhibit is "about the human body and accessing the healing mechanisms of the human body," explains Thomas Bills, director of education. The 2,000-square-foot exhibition features hands-on activities and audio and video displays about our bodies, including a life-size mannequin equipped with buttons that reveal the sounds internal organs make on a daily basis. "I hope people walk out of this knowing more about their bodies and how to take care of them," Bills says. The Healer Within is at HealthSpace Cleveland (8911 Euclid Avenue) through October. It's open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission $7, $3 for kids; call 216-231-5010.
Wednesday, July 7
Lyric Opera Cleveland hasn't performed Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, arguably the pair's greatest work, in 23 years. The Japanese-flavored comedy returns tonight. Helping all that opera go down a little more smoothly (and, really, the genre doesn't get more audience-friendly than this) are a picnic, happening outdoors during the intermission, and a pre-performance lecture. Show times are 7 tonight, July 10, and July 15, and 2 p.m. July 11 at the Cleveland Play House's Drury Theatre, 8500 Euclid Avenue. Tickets range from $30 to $43, available by calling 216-685-5976.