Friday, February 21
There are plenty of festivals going on this time of year, but how many of them actually have the blessing of the pope? Only one, as far as we know: the Peoria San Gennaro Feast and Street Fair. This enormous annual celebration of Italian heritage features vendors, more than 40 carnival rides, and all-day musical performances from Tony DeBruno, Enzo Salvaggi, Ciro Giorgio and others. Naturally, it wouldn't be an Italian festival without all of your favorite treats from the Old Country, including linguini, calamari and cannoli. The action runs from 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday, February 20; 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, February 21; 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, February 22; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, February 23, on the grounds of the Peoria Sports Complex, 16101 North 83rd Avenue in Peoria. Admission is $6 for adults and free for kids 54 inches and under. Call 623-487-7774 for details. Expect extra fun on Saturday, when Fan Fest 2003 – a spring training kickoff event for the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners– takes place in the main stadium, while the Charity Classics Car Show will be held in the complex parking lot. For information, call the Peoria events hot line, 623-773-7198.
Saturday, February 22
Japanese culture has a discreet presence in the Valley except for one huge weekend each winter, when Matsuri: A Festival of Japan takes over Heritage and Science Park, 115 North Sixth Street. Whether you're drawn to the irresistible rhythms of the taiko drums, the refined movements of traditional dance or the swift skills of martial artists, two stages of entertainment and demonstrations will keep you enthralled. Wander amid bonsai displays, exhibits from the Valley of the Sun Koi Club's colorful fish show, and vendors offering everything from calligraphy and books to kimono and candy. Take the little tykes over to the festival's children's activities area, and don't forget to bring an empty stomach so you can sample delicious yakitori, noodles, sushi and desserts. The whole shebang is free, and runs from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, February 22, and Sunday, February 23. Call 602-262-5029 to find out more.
Sunday, February 23
Springlike weather and a certain manmade lake in the East Valley help along our exotic vacation fantasies. On Sunday, February 23, we'll be dreaming of the Caribbean Islands, thanks to the mellow steel drum sounds of J.T. Island Steel. The band performs from 5 to 8 p.m. as part of the weekly Live @ the Lake Spring Concert Series at Tempe Beach Park Amphitheater, located at Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe. Continuing every Sunday through May 25 (except Easter, April 20), the free event brings blues, jazz, pop, rock and funk from Valley bands, plus food and drink from local restaurants. For more information, call 480-350-8625.
Monday, February 24
Women's Tennis Association Tour stops for February have included jet-setter destinations in France, India, Belgium and Qatar, but now the series comes back to the States with the State Farm Women's Tennis Classic, to be held in Scottsdale Monday, February 24, through March 2. The top-ranking ladies of tennis – defending champion Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters, Chanda Rubin and others – will compete in a 28-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles draw for a hefty $585,000 purse. Game times vary at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort, 7575 East Princess Drive in Scottsdale. Ticket prices range from $15 to $80. To purchase, call Ticketmaster, 480-784-4444.
Tuesday, February 25
We wish we could promise you that Henry Rollins will be shedding his standard black tee shirt to show off that bad-ass "Search and Destroy" tattoo on his back when he performs at Celebrity Theatre on Tuesday, February 25, but we can't make any guarantees. After all, it's a spoken-word gig, not a Rollins Band concert. But if his notoriety as former Black Flag singer, self-made author/publisher and actor isn't enough reason for you to check him out, our only words come directly from the mouth of Hank himself: "Don't think about it – do it!" General admission is $20, and doors open at 7 p.m. at the theater, 440 North 32nd Street. Tickets are available from the box office or through Ticketmaster, www.ticketmaster.com or 480-784-4444.
Wednesday, February 26
You never know who's going to get onstage and unleash their secret inner comedian at Jimmy Danelli's popular Funniest Person in the Valley contest, which runs every Wednesday at 8 p.m. starting February 26. It could be your dentist, your Realtor or your neighbor – everybody brings something funny to the table at this nine-week-long amateur competition where audience votes determine who will go on to the celebrity-judged Grand Finals, to be held on April 30. This go-round, the contest moves into new digs, at Celebrity Theatre's Celebrity Club, 440 North 32nd Street. Doors open at 6 p.m. Admission is $10, $20 for the Grand Finals. To find out more, call 602-267-1600.