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The Best Free Things to Do in Metro Phoenix This Week

Old-school Nintendo cartridges for sale.EXPAND
Old-school Nintendo cartridges for sale.
Benjamin Leatherman

Did you accountant miss a deduction on your taxes? Don't fret. There are plenty of cool (and free) events to occupy your time this week, from beautiful bird walks to charity gaming competitions. Don't forget to check out other events on Phoenix New Times' event calendar.

Nature is calling.EXPAND
Nature is calling.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve

McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Bird Walk

Step away from your laptop and spread your wings for a few hours as the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy presents a Bird Walk from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesday, February 25. Two guides will be leading the way, starting at the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead, 30301 North Alma School Parkway in Scottsdale. Birds you might spot include the northern mockingbird, ruby-crowned kinglet, black-tailed gnatcatcher, and more. Wear sturdy walking shoes and a hat, plus plenty of sunscreen. Also, bring a water bottle and binoculars. No dogs are allowed, but phone cameras filled with shots of your best pup are never off limits. Lynn Trimble

GameCon 2020

Not every gamer is hellbent on pwning friends and opponents alike for personal glory or an e-sports payday. Some do it for charity, like the joystick junkies who will participate in GameCon 2020. The all-ages event, which takes place on Thursday, February 27, at the Student Union at ASU’s Polytechnic Campus, 5999 South Backus Mall in Mesa, will involve casual and competitive gaming while making donations to local charitable organizations. A mix of consoles, tabletop games, and virtual reality will be available, and tournaments are planned for titles like Super Smash Bros., Fortnite, and Rocket League. It’s game on from 3 to 9 p.m. and free to attend and participate. Organizers are requesting nonperishable food items and monetary donations. Benjamin Leatherman

Catch Celebration of Culture at the Orpheum Theatre.EXPAND
Catch Celebration of Culture at the Orpheum Theatre.
Lynn Trimble

Celebration of Culture

February is Black History Month, and this year groups all across the Valley celebrated with events and gatherings. For the month’s end, the Central Arizona chapter of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators is hosting its Celebration of Culture. The event features several speakers, including Dr. Warren H. Stewart Sr., as well as performances by the Black Theatre Troupe and the Kawambe-Omowale drum and dance theater. There will be Southern cuisine courtesy of Buzznbeez. It’s a great chance for a community-oriented celebration of black culture (plus, it hopefully won’t be 1,000 degrees yet). The free event is 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 27, at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams Street. Chris Coplan

Mesa Arts Center has a robust lineup of classes.
Mesa Arts Center has a robust lineup of classes.
Mesa Arts Center

41st Annual Contemporary Crafts Exhibit

If you hear the word “crafts” and think Popsicle sticks or pipe cleaners, it’s time to hit your reset button by heading to Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, 1 East Main Street in Mesa. Its free 41st Annual Contemporary Crafts Exhibit includes an intriguing mix of artworks from wearable sculpture to ceramics. The exhibit features work by more than 50 artists, and more than half are based in Arizona.

One artist used discarded sneakers to make a small sculpture anchored by the form of a human heart. Another used copper, enamel, and spring steel to depict two world leaders flanking a nuclear mushroom cloud. Check it out on Friday, February 28, when museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit continues through April 19. Lynn Trimble

Look for Jeff Slim's work while you're at Palabras Bilingual Bookstore.EXPAND
Look for Jeff Slim's work while you're at Palabras Bilingual Bookstore.
Lynn Trimble

Queer Poetry Salon

Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, 1738 East McDowell Road, is giving queer voices a safe space to share their work with a Queer Poetry Salon happening from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, February 28. It’s being hosted by Equality AZ, a nonprofit that works to improve the well-being, inclusion, and political power of LGBTQ community members.

The free event will include readings by featured poets, plus time for other queer writers to share their work. Any LGBTQ writer can share two short pieces during the open mic period. Organizers describe the gathering as a “test lab for queer literature” designed to help grow the queer community. Lynn Trimble

Leap Day 2020 Party

Despite what Liz Lemon declared in 30 Rock, Leap Day is most definitely a thing. Thanks to a quirk of the Gregorian calendar, the world gets an extra day every four years to do with as it pleases. While you don’t have to dress up in blue and yellow or give out candy in exchange for children’s tears, there will be some parties celebrating the occasion.

The folks at Pho Cao, 7436 East McDowell Road in Scottsdale, are planning a Leap Day 2020 party on Saturday, February 29, with live music from local artists and acts like Roger Dabsworth, The Psychelephants, and the Benja Bloom Band. The party starts at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but donations for the bands are appreciated. Call 480-947-2608. Benjamin Leatherman

George Washington Carver High School, once Phoenix's segregated school for African-American students, is now a museum and cultural center.EXPAND
George Washington Carver High School, once Phoenix's segregated school for African-American students, is now a museum and cultural center.
Patrick Bryant

Arizona’s Negro Leagues Baseball Centennial Celebration

Depending on your level of baseball nerddom, you may or may not have heard of pitcher Ford Smith. If not, his story is worth knowing. The late Phoenix native competed in professional baseball’s Negro Leagues, which launched in 1920 and consisted solely of African-American players. Smith competed with the league’s Kansas City Monarchs for four years in the '40s, playing alongside the legendary Satchel Paige and starting the 1947 Negro World Series.

Smith’s achievements on the baseball diamond will be commemorated during Arizona’s Negro Leagues Baseball Centennial Celebration on Saturday, February 29, at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center, 415 East Grant Street. The discussion will focus on our state’s ties to the leagues, including Smith, and feature baseball historians Bill Staples Jr., and Charlie Vascellaro, as well as onetime MLB outfielder Byron Browne. The discussion is from 2 to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Call 602- 441-7516 or see facebook.com/carvermuseumphx. Benjamin Leatherman

Geremy Cites' work near Stacy's @ Melrose at 4343 North Seventh Avenue.EXPAND
Geremy Cites' work near Stacy's @ Melrose at 4343 North Seventh Avenue.
Lynn Trimble

Melrose Vintage Market

Unless you already lived there, you may not know the cultural and historical value of the Melrose District. Every month, residents and local businesses put this vibrant area on display with the Melrose Vintage Market. The homegrown market features more than 50 local vendors selling wares ranging from clothing and decor to furniture and random “oddities,” with styles like prewar, deco, and Midcentury Modern. Plus, there’s food and drink available, including local bakeries, as well as a KidZone featuring jump ropes and hula hoops. And if all that weren’t enough, there are always dogs to admire and hopefully hug. This free event is set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 1, at 700 West Campbell Avenue. Chris Coplan

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