The Fifth Dimension said it best in its 1967 hit "Up, Up and Away": "The world is a better place" . . . from a beautiful hot air balloon. Nearly 40 years later, that magnificently cheesy tune (resist humming the melody within striking distance of anyone with a bat) still rings true for organizers of the 30th annual Thunderbird Balloon & Air Classic, which goes vertical with more than 80 balloons and 60 aircraft this Friday, March 26, through Sunday, March 28, at the Glendale Municipal Airport. As 60,000 spectators look to the skies, the event gets started at dusk on Friday with the Desert Glows, an assortment of tethered hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes strapped down with strings of choreographed lights. As the sun rises on Saturday and Sunday, the Dawn Patrol of balloons does the same trick around 5:30 a.m. But if it's an aerial display with balls -- rather than balloons -- that you crave, the Warbird Reunion brings together some privately owned military aircraft from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, plus performances by the Red Baron Squadron on Saturday and Sunday. The Thunderbird Classic also showcases freefalling skydivers, an aviation and commercial expo, and the Kids' Flyin' Fun Zone. The weekend's events take place at the airport, 6801 North Glen Harbor in Glendale. Daily admission is $15 for adults, $5 for kids ages 6 to 12, and free for kids 5 and younger; parking is $5. For more information, visit www.thunderbirdballoonandairclassic.com. -- Joe Watson
Feminist delivers powerful lecture
Back in the late '70s, Judy Chicago was a ball-busting feminist artist from Southern California whose best-known work, The Dinner Party, was widely acclaimed. Today, Chicago is a ball-busting feminist artist from Albuquerque, still speaking about the women's movement in the art world, and still fielding questions about the powerful message behind The Dinner Party. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 31, Chicago presents a lecture at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7374 East Second Street, as part of its ongoing "ARTiculations" series. Chicago will also answer questions and sign copies of her most recent books after the lecture. Tickets are $15 for SMoCA members, $17 for nonmembers and $12 for students. Call 480-994-ARTS for reservations. -- Joe Watson
Jazz is in the air at ASU
Whoever said jazz was best heard in a smoke-filled underground bar while a bartender keeps your glass full of Jack and Coke . . . was probably right. But that hasn't stopped ASU's Jazz Week from flourishing for more than 20 years in a more educational environment. At 7:30 every night from Monday, March 29, through April 1, the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre hosts free concerts by ASU's Latin Jazz Ensemble, Concert Jazz Band, New Music Jazz Ensemble, and jazz faculty, including Michael Crotty and Dom Moio. The theater is located on 11th Street between Mill and Forest on the main campus in Tempe. For more information, visit www.herbergercollege.asu.edu. -- Joe Watson
Scottsdale showcases its public art collection
Believe it or not, Scottsdale's collection of public art includes more than some of the finest breast enhancements in North America. Among the city's 56 pieces are James Turrell's Knight Rise skyspace and Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture, plus literally miles of public art running through the West's Most Western Town (a stretch of the Pima Freeway won a public art award in 2001). The Scottsdale Center for the Arts celebrates Public Art Day, in conjunction with Sunday A'Fair, on March 28 from noon until 4:30 p.m. The event includes free trolley tours of public artworks around the city and a chance to meet some of the artists. Call 480-994-2787 or visit www.scottsdalearts.org. -- Joe Watson
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Faith No More
Lecturer speaks the gospel on religious evil
Those unfamiliar with Charles Kimball would presume -- given his strong Christian beliefs and impressive 25-year rsum of affecting U.S. foreign policy -- that his lecture titled "When Religion Becomes Evil" would fall in line with overzealous Christian pundits proselytizing the apocalyptic dangers of Islam. But Kimball, an ordained Presbyterian clergyman and professor of religion at Wake Forest University, takes a different turn, warning of what he calls the "new form of Christian imperialism" sweeping across the Middle East on behalf of America's religious right. Since serving as one of seven clergy negotiators in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, Kimball has advised members of Congress and the State Department on foreign policy. His free lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 25, in the Great Hall of ASU's College of Law, located at McAllister and Terrace in Tempe. For more information, call 480-965-7187. -- Joe Watson
There's a party on Mill Avenue
It seems native Tempeans like nothing more than to bitch about the corporatization of Mill Avenue, its one-lane access, and that blasted smoking ban that sent business to Scottsdale and Chandler. But almost everyone agrees that the annual Spring Festival of the Arts is one of Tempe's most endearing constants, among a Town Lake of undesirable changes. This weekend, more than 400 artists get free rein of Mill Avenue -- which will be closed to traffic -- with 18 different categories of art for sale. Two stages of live music are headlined by the Gin Blossoms on Friday; jovial jugglers, magicians, games, a climbing wall and monster mural for the kiddies round out the ambiance of suburban utopia. Admission to the festival -- which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, March 26, through Sunday, March 28 -- is free, although parking generally costs $5 to $10. For more information, visit www.tempefestivalofthearts.com. -- Joe Watson