This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

 Thursday, September 25
The Phoenix Symphony toasts its new season on Thursday, September 25, with champagne, a gala atmosphere and a rare appearance by the legendary pianist Van Cliburn, who hasn't visited the Valley in nearly 30 years. Among other works, he performs Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, the piece that first earned him fame more than four decades ago. The concert conducted by Maestro Hermann Michael begins at 7:30 p.m. at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. Tickets are $30 to $95, and can be purchased by visiting www.phoenixsymphony.org, by calling 602-495-1999, or by visiting the box office, located on the third floor of the Arizona Center at Third Street and Van Buren.

Friday, September 26
We can't promise that you won't envy the lucky folks who're visiting the real Oktoberfest in Munich right now, but to ease your mind (and your parched gullet), check out the Fountain Hills Oktoberfest, held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily from Friday, September 26, through Sunday, September 28. The lively fall celebration features authentic German food, arts and crafts, live music, games, giveaways, and -- of course -- a beer garden. Tickets, $3, are available at the door, and kids under 12 get in free at Fort McDowell Casino, located on the northwest corner of Fort McDowell Road and State Route 87 (the Beeline Highway). To get there, take Shea Boulevard east, turn left on SR 87, drive two more miles, and then take a left at Fort McDowell Road. For details visit www.fmcasino.com or call 1-800-THE-FORT (843-3678).

Saturday, September 27
Want to know what kind of sweet rides the famous folk drive? At the Funkmaster Flex Celebrity Car Show on Saturday, September 27, you can check out cherry classic cars, gleaming muscle cars and pimpin' SUVs owned by hip-hop stars such as Nelly, Ludacris, 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes, DMX, and Tyrese, plus the impressive collection of DJ Funkmaster himself. Performances by some of the hottest rappers of the moment -- Chingy, Joe Budden, and David Banner -- promise to be the highlights of the evening. Doors open at 3 p.m., the car show starts at 4:30 p.m., and the concert begins at 6 p.m. at Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street. General admission tickets are $32, and can be purchased from Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com or 480-784-4444.

It's finally getting to be the time of year when mornings are glorious, and we don't just mean before the crack of dawn. Who isn't happy to forget about when the record low temperature was a stifling 96 degrees? Join hundreds of participants in a refreshing a.m. stroll for charity on Saturday, September 27, when Walk to D'Feet ALS takes over Tempe Beach Park. (ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease, causes loss of muscle strength. Research of the illness may benefit sufferers of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases as well.) Registration for the event begins at 8 a.m. for the 9 a.m. walk. There's no fee to join in, but participants can raise money through donations. Tempe Beach Park is located at the intersection of Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe. For more information, visit www.alsaz.org.

Sunday, September 28
He's such a weirdo, with the world's best deadpan delivery. Of course, we also love Harland Williams for his comedic appearances in films such as There's Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber. But alone on a stage, no one could be funnier. Expect a huge crowd when Williams performs at the Tempe Improv Thursday, September 25, through Sunday, September 28. Showtime is 8 nightly, with additional 10 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $17 on Thursday and Sunday, and $20 on Friday and Saturday. The Improv is located at 930 East University in Tempe. Call 602-921-9877 for more information or to purchase tickets.

Monday, September 29
Zen devotees and dilettantes alike can hear a personal discussion of Robert Aitken's Taking the Path of Zen on Monday, September 29, when Sokai Geoffrey Barrett, resident priest at Haku-un-ji Tempe Zen Center, discusses the book. Written by one of the founders of American Zen, Taking the Path of Zen is a fascinating introduction to the spiritual practice, and is one of Sokai's favorite reads. The presentation begins at 7 p.m. It's part of Changing Hands Bookstore's monthly "Community Talking About Books" series, which features community leaders' insights on their preferred titles. Admission is free at Changing Hands, 6428 South McClintock in Tempe. Call 480-730-0205 for further details.

Tuesday, September 30
If you're looking for a midday respite, take a bite of culture with Lunch Time Theater's latest offering, Love's Fire, three short plays by celebrated playwrights Eric Bogosian, John Guare and Tony Kushner, presented by Blackball Ensemble. Witty and romantic, the vignettes are inspired by Shakespeare's love sonnets. Doors open at 11:40 a.m. Curtain time is 12:10 p.m. Tuesday, September 30, in the Performance Outreach Theater at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe; the entrance is on Van Buren. Tickets are only $5, and lunch is available for an additional $5; call 602-254-7843 by 9 a.m. to pre-order your meal from Paisley Violin. To find out more, call 602-254-7399, extension 104, or visit www.herbergertheater.org.

Wednesday, September 1
Join world traveler Jon Veigel for "The Wilds of Eastern Siberia," a presentation of breathtaking photography from his recent trip to a part of the world few of us will ever see. He's captured the vast and desolate beauty of the Bering Straits and the Sea of Okhotsk, along with fascinating images of indigenous animals and people. Admission is free, and the event begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 1, in the auditorium of Glendale Public Library, 5959 West Brown in Glendale. Call 623-930-3550 for more information.

 
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