Some people prefer to stargaze by catching up on the latest with Ashton and Demi or Britney and what's-his-name. Why not go the highbrow route and join the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society for a free observation at Fox Run Park (2110 Stella Drive, Black Forest)? The group will meet in the grassy fields to the right of the park entrance. The Astronomical Society provides large and small telescopes as well as knowledgeable members to assist with viewing the cosmos. Show up after dark and dress appropriately for the weather. Call Alan at 262-0698 from 6 to 9 p.m. with questions.
Also outdoors, catch music historians and cowboy music performers Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout at the Rock Ledge Ranch (on 30th Street, across from the Garden of the Gods Visitors Center), starting at 7 p.m. The free concert will feature re-creations of the music of the West with original lyrics, accompanied by vintage instruments. Gardner and Rideout's recent CD features cowboy ballads of the late 1800s and early 1900s, including "Little Joe, the Wrangler," the prettiest cowboy song you'll ever want to hear. Bring blankets and lawn chairs for comfort; the concert is free and the show will go on come rain or shine. For more, call 578-6777.
When you walk into my grandmother's house, her extensive spoon collection rattles on the walls. During hot summer afternoons we sit on her front porch and watch those antique valuation programs on PBS together. Today the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (215 S. Tejon St.) is holding its own Annual Antique Valuation Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For $10 per item, limit three items per person, experts will briefly describe the item, offer care tips and give a verbal value estimate. No sales are allowed, but I'll be eavesdropping to hear the values of all those spoon collections out there.
The crew at Sencha (331 S. Nevada Ave.) prepares for yet another literary dinner, this month celebrating Homer's classic The Odyssey (and for all you lit nerds out there, the performance is based on the Robert Fitzgerald translation). An energetic cast performs the story while serving your five-course Greek-style dinner with wine pairings. It's $65/person plus tax and gratuity and runs from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Call 632-8287 for reservations.
A few years back I spent some gritty late nights at the Nuyorican Poet's Caf in NYC listening to slam poets shout about the TV-tray generation and their girlfriends' butts. The Springs has its own burgeoning slam scene, and I suggest you go check it out. Head over to The Underground (110 N. Nevada Ave.) for the Progression Session Poetry Slam where you can test out your own work on the open mike, then hear poet Brianna Martray of Denver followed by a slam. Donate a few bucks to see some high-energy poetry. Leave your beret and black turtleneck at home. The slam is for ages 15 and up, and it runs from 8 to 11 p.m. Call 573-6820 for more.
Looking for inspiration? Head over to 32 Bleu where Grammy award-winning Rastafarians Steel Pulse will rock the house with the reggae sounds of their highly charged new CD, African Holocaust. Steel Pulse wants you to get fired up about the historic struggles of black people over the past 700 years and dance to their uplifting beat. Doors open at 7:45 pm. Call 955-5664.
Legendary string wizard, America's instrumental poet John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band takes the stage at the Salida Steam Plant (Sackett and G Street, Salida) tonight at 7:30. This Roots of the Rockies Music Association event also features rising star Adrienne Young and her band Little Sadie. Well worth the drive -- heck, stay overnight and swim in the hot springs pool in the morning. For tickets, call the concert hotline at 719/539-8514 or visit www.rootsoftherockies.org.
Today through Sunday, August 1, the Fine Arts Center's Youth Rep Workshop presents a full-scale musical theater production of The Secret Garden, adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic book. The play won a Tony Award, and this production will feature some of the finest youth talent in the region. Performances are at 7 p.m. tonight through Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Fine Arts Center theater, 30 West Dale Street. Tickets are $13 for FAC members in advance, $15 for public in advance and $17 at the door. Call the box office at 634-5583 of visit www.csfineartscenter.org.
There are so many great things about the summer, not the least of these are outdoor events like Bluegrass at Hillside Gardens (1006 S. Institute) where, for $20, you can indulge in bluegrass heaven from noon until 8 p.m. See the likes of The Bluegrass Patriots, Pete Wernick's Live Five, Palmer Divide, the Bertye Maddux Band, Jalan Crossland and The Mitguards. There's barbecue, beer and wine on hand and beautiful gardens to wander through between sets. Tickets are limited so purchase them early. Call 520-9463 for more.
-- Sara Gallagher