Strength in numbers, indeed. For the first time, all seven East Valley cities -- Tempe, Scottsdale, Chandler, Guadalupe, Gilbert, Mesa and Queen Creek -- are joining forces to celebrate Black History Month with the inaugural East Valley Regional Unity Walk and Diversity Festival on Saturday, January 31.
For four years, the event was called the Black Heritage Celebration and was held at Symphony Hall Terrace in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, says Juanita Cartwright, co-chair of the festival. But when Civic Plaza renovations interfered with the date, an opportunity arose to hold the festival at Tempe Town Lake, after MLK Day but right before Black History Month.
Bringing all seven cities on board for the party was certainly bigger. What's better? The sheer variety of multicultural entertainment and food that makes the festival live up to its name.
"We're celebrating black heritage, but our focus has always been unity and accepting people from different cultures," Cartwright says.
The one-mile walk begins at 9:30 a.m. at various locations, converging at the lake at 10 a.m. Call 602-413-2035 for details. - Michele Laudig
New exhibition at Heard
Worlds collide in the works of Walt Wooten. "By juxtaposing Native American figures of my own invention with European society, I tell a unique and personal story," the Choctaw artist explains. An exhibition of Wooten's paintings -- the second installment of the Heard Museum's "Artspeak: New Voices in Contemporary Expression" series -- opens Saturday, January 31; special programming includes a 2 p.m. performance by dancer Rulan Tangen and violinist Quetzal Guerrero. "Walt Wooten: From a Visit to the Louvre" continues through October. See www.heard.org. - Jill Koch
Ben Avery brings back the Wild West
Gun control in the Old West meant hitting a bad guy while riding a galloping horse. Through Sunday, February 1, Cowboy Action Shooters in 1890s dress shoot vintage firearms in a spectacular display of skill and gun smoke at Ben Avery Shooting Facility on Carefree Highway, just west of I-17. From 8 a.m. to approximately 5 p.m. each day, revisit a time when America was young and justice was still a keen-eyed maid. After dark, join the frontier folk around the campfires to hear a tale or two. Admission is free. Visit or call 623-582-8313. - Kim Toms
PAM's latest highlights homegrown talent
Big paintings of the Western landscape mingle with sparkling portraits of 19th-century well-to-doers in the Phoenix Art Museum's current blockbuster art history lesson, "American Beauty: Painting and Sculpture From the Detroit Institute of Arts 1770-1920." Some icons of American art are included in the show, such as John Singleton Copley's Watson and the Shark, from 1777-78, and George Caleb Bingham's The Trappers' Return from 1851. There are also several lesser known but exquisitely rendered pieces, such as Martin Johnson Heade's sunsets and a magical little scene called Hummingbirds and Orchids from 1880-90.
PAM's staff enhanced the ID labels in the exhibition by connecting featured paintings with works in the permanent collection. One of their most beloved pieces, Spring Flowers by Julius Stewart, welcomes its much more languid cousin, Stewart's Wood Nymphs, in "American Beauty."
While the exhibition's narrative paintings include a fair share of the sappy melodrama of allegories like Benjamin West's Death on the Pale Horse from 1796 (which is filled with people in the throes of the Apocalypse), the painting styles of these under-recognized American artists outshine any qualms about cheesy subject matter. And that's really what's worth the trip -- seeing the quality of art Americans have produced over the last two centuries.
The next in a series of related lectures at 7 p.m. Thursday, January 29, features Sarah Burns, professor of art history from Indiana University, discussing America's fascination with images of the "common man" and rural life during the 19th century. Admission is $5.
"American Beauty" continues through March 14 at Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central. Admission for the exhibition is $12 for adults, $6 for children ages 6 to 17 and free for members. Call 602-257-1222 for further information. - Gina Cavallo Collins
Here Comes the Fun
Parada del Sol gets underway
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Copernicus would be proud. The sun takes its rightful place at the center of celebration this weekend, when the Parada del Sol hits Scottsdale Road. Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, January 31, the Scottsdale Jaycees' 51st annual horse-drawn parade -- the world's largest, as legend has it -- heads north from Oak to Indian School.
Post-parade action peaks in Old Town Scottsdale, where the Trail's End Celebration treats kids to games and pony rides -- and the Jaycees Mavericks aim to entertain by reenacting Old West gunfights. Presented by Scottsdale Downtown, the block party also features food and merchandise vendors, plus main stage entertainment at First Avenue and Brown.
The Parada del Sol Rodeo Festival resumes the following weekend, when a PRCA-sanctioned rodeo rolls into Scottsdale's Rawhide Wild West Town, 23023 North Scottsdale Road. Post-rodeo concerts kick it, country-style, with David Lee Murphy on Friday, February 6, and Emerson Drive on Saturday, February 7.
A portion of proceeds benefits Jaycees Charities. For ticket information, see www.scottsdalejaycees.com/home.htm. - Jill Koch