Four holidays collide at tonight's Black Love Bizarre party. Northeast Ohio's hip-hop community will simultaneously celebrate Mardi Gras, Valentine's Day, Black History Month and Presidents' Day with strings of beads, boxes of chocolates and a nightclub decked out in red. "We'll have games and trivia contests throughout the night that will commemorate all those things," says organizer Napoleon Wilson, who planned similar bashes in Columbus in 2001 and Cleveland in 2006. "It's a wide-encompassing event that will not only incorporate different musical genres, but different party atmospheres." The entertainment will help the cause. Hip-hop quartet Vitium will open the show, followed by Poetic Republic keyboardist Frank West, rapper D. Roof, acoustic guitarist Rashimba Wild Bloom and the Dark Shine Pros jazz-and-soul combo. DJs Sorani and Stevewil will spin. "But you're not just there to see these bands perform," says Wilson. "You're gonna dance a little, and you're gonna eat a little. And because it's Presidents' Day weekend, Barack Obama will be one of many hot topics." Doors open at 7 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd. in Cleveland Hts.). Admission: $10. Call 216.321.5588 or visit grogshop.gs. - Cris Glaser
Before Tampa-bred comic Maryellen Hooper steps out on Hilarities' stage this Valentine's Day weekend, she wants audiences to know that her stand-up routine has nothing to do with bashing every dude in the universe. She'd rather single out her husband for waiting six years to propose marriage. "That's 15 in girl years and six months to a guy," she laughs. "My husband is good for at least one bit of material a week." So are the couple's two kids, who've taught Hooper that motherhood and solitude don't mix. "As a mom, I found out that you only get 10 minutes alone in the bathroom," she says. "You can either wash your hair or lay on the floor and take a nap. I choose the latter." Showtimes are 8 p.m. tonight, 7:30 and 10:15 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Hilarities (2035 E. Fourth St.). Tickets: $15-$25. Call 216.241.7425 or visit pickwickandfrolic.com. - P.F. Wilson
Couples speak the language of love at this weekend's Fireproof Your Marriage seminar. The dialogue starts tonight with a screening of the movie Fireproof, in which Kirk Cameron plays a firefighter battling both house blazes and his ready-to-collapse marriage. The workshop continues tomorrow when WorldView Community Church pastor Bruce Farley leads a series of Q&As about understanding the secrets to lasting love, reconnecting with one's spouse and "doing life together." Soul mates connect at 7:30 p.m. tonight and 8:30 a.m. tomorrow at WorldView Community Church (6941 Columbia Rd. in Olmsted Falls). Admission: $15. Call 440.427.7700 or visit worldviewcc.org. - Glaser
On this Friday the 13, Summit County ghostbusters try to track down the spirits of one of Akron's founding families at the Paranormal Tours of the Perkins Stone Mansion. Their efforts shouldn't go unrewarded: Legend goes that you can hear the Perkins' nine children roam the halls near the room where each was born. "We've even had contractors and painters who were working on the house come to us and say, 'I'm the only one in the building and I can hear footsteps upstairs,'" says organizer Janis Worley. "It's not scary or evil stuff, but there's a lot of strange things in that house." The tours are at 6:30 and 9 p.m. at the Perkins Stone Mansion (465 S. Portage Path in Akron). Admission: $25. Call 330.535.1120 or visit summithistory.org. - Glaser
At today's Sweetheart Hike with Summit County naturalist Meghan Doran, you'll meet the Great Horned Owl - which lives up to its name: It's the first North American bird species to have sex in 2009, going at it in tree cavities, deserted buildings, even a larger bird's nest. That's just one of the fun facts that Doran will dispense during the 0.6-mile hike on Furnace Run Metro Park's Daffodil Trail. Along the way, she'll point out paw tracks that could lead to other animal rendezvous, like a skunk's den where the male mates with a parade of females this time of year. Just make sure you bring nose plugs - the stench is beyond description. The hike starts at 2 p.m. at Furnace Run Metro Park (3100 Brush Rd. in Richfield Twp.). Admission: free. Call 330.865.8065 or visit summitmetroparks.org. - Glaser
Members of Cleveland's venerable gay-guys' singing ensemble the North Coast Men's Chorus don tuxes and tails to host tonight's Hearts on Fire fundraiser. The 10th annual bash starts with hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar and a silent auction of donated memorabilia. Then some of the chorus members will break into Broadway tunes that'll stir up buzz for their April production of On With the Show, which features classics by George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. The party kicks up at 6:30 p.m. at the Shaker Heights Country Club (3300 Courtland Rd. in Shaker Hts.). Tickets: $85. Call 216.556.0590 or visit ncmchorus.org. - Glaser
Nothing screams love on Valentine's Day like a steamy stack of waffles. At least that's what the cupids at the Children's Museum of Cleveland want you to believe at today's Sweetheart Waffles Family Workshop. Program managers will guide armchair chefs through the art of whipping up a creamy batch of batter, heating it on a griddle and topping the "grid cakes" with fresh fruit, whipped cream and chocolate chips. Bon appétit! The waffle irons sizzle at 9 and 11:30 a.m. at the Children's Museum of Cleveland (10730 Euclid Ave.). Admission: $22. Call 216.791.7114 or visit clevelandchildrensmuseum.org. - Glaser
Local artists Peg Asensio and Tom Kochheiser headline an auction of 50 hand-painted plates at tonight's Save Room for Dessert fundraiser for the Family Haven group home in Bay Village. Lakewood's Local Girl Gallery has teamed with the Lakewood Is Art coalition to round up 50 artists to paint designs on opaque dessert dishes that could fetch as much as $400 each on the auction block. "The artists can showcase their plates as canvasses to display their styles of artwork," says gallery owner Linda Goik. "We didn't want this to be a Valentine's Day plate display as much as an all-year-long expression of art." During the auction, bidders can also sample cakes, pies and pastries by local bakeries and restaurants. But the stars of the show will be the plates. "I don't know what they look like until the day before the auction, so I'm just as surprised as everybody," says Goik. "But when you look at them as a whole art installation and collection, it's a beautiful sight." Bidding starts at 7 p.m. at Local Girl Gallery (16106 Detroit Ave. in Lakewood). Admission: $10. Call 216.228.1802 or visit localgirlgallery.com. - Glaser
Steamy bowls of wintertime comfort food await the runners and walkers who cross the finish line at today's Chili Bowl Classic. The tasty incentive must work: The 5K race marks its 23rd year in downtown Cleveland. "Racers are excited to get the new season going," says Neal Neroni, who owns the Hermes Cleveland sports agency, which organized the run. "Our tradition of events is about making Cleveland happy." After they complete the course, racers also score long-sleeved T-shirts and goody bags. They can wash down the chili with $4 glasses of Bloody Marys and Bud Light draft brew. Trophies will then be awarded to the fastest man and woman, as well as to the top three runners in each of 12 age groups. "This 5K distance is sure to continue to be a challenge for everyone," says Neroni. "It's the true and official kickoff to the '09 season. It means that winter is hopefully on its way out." Runners take their marks at 9:30 a.m. at Tower 230 (230 Prospect Ave.). Fee: $17 advance, $22 on race day. Call 216.623.9933 or visit hermescleveland.com. - Chad Felton
Your 401(k) has tanked. You spend your Sundays clipping coupons. And a 12-pack of Milwaukee Best has replaced your beloved Labatt's in the fridge. In these penny-pinching times, rocker Jonah Koslen and his business partner Iudita Harlan push the Buddhist approach to finding spiritual harmony with money at their Balancing Meditation for Financially Insecure Times program. Do you have power over your cash or do you let money control you? Are you more interested in material possessions or do you chant a "less is more" mantra? Koslen and Harlan lead the hour-long meditation session to help you become one with your inner Bill Gates. The workshop is at 3 p.m. at Sitting With Selves (33595 Bainbridge Rd. in Solon). Fee: $25. Call 216.310.4423 or visit sittingwithselves.com. - Glaser
Now that football season is over, McCarthy's Ale House in Lakewood realizes that pigskin fans need some kind of activity to channel their energy until the 2009-2010 season starts. Welcome to Madden Mondays, where videogame junkies can compete in an eight-week Madden NFL tournament. "We know that the popularity of the game itself is huge," says club owner John Ashworth. "We figured we'd give it a shot for the game's fans. I mean, why not hook it up on big screens in a bar?" To fuel the competitions, the bar serves bottles of Molson and Bud Select for a buck to go along with 30-cent wings, 10-cent mussels and $3.99 pizzas. And on March 23, the eight weekly winners meet to compete for a Budweiser-sponsored tailgate package, complete with a folding recliner. "Dudes really get into it," says Ashworth. "It can get really competitive. And it's more fun to kick ass with friends cheering and drinking." Madden madness starts at 8 p.m. at McCarthy's Ale House (16918 Detroit Ave. in Lakewood). Admission: free. Call 216.228.1340 or visit mccarthyslakewood.com. - Felton
Cleveland State University pays tribute to the composers of the "Negro national anthem" at today's Lift Every Voice and Sing lecture. The directors of the school's Black Studies Program will honor brothers James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson, who co-wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing" at the turn of the 20th century. Originally a poem by James, the piece was first recited by 500 African-American schoolkids at a segregated school in Florida in February 1900. Five years later, John set the poem to music, and the song's melody quickly swept across the deep South. In 1919, the NAACP adopted the tune as its anthem, which inspired preachers to paste copies of the lyrics into hymnals in black churches around the country. Just last month, former Southern Christian Leadership Conference president Joseph Lowery recited the song's third stanza as part of his benediction at Barack Obama's inauguration. The tribute starts at noon at Cleveland State University's College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences (2121 Euclid Ave.). Admission: free. Call 216.687.3655 or visit csuohio.edu/class/blackstudies. - Glaser
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