Arizona's cowboy history and cactus-speckled landscape are permanent fixtures, so when we're not grumbling about the kitschy paraphernalia and silly stereotypes that come attached, we might as well celebrate their presence. This year, we're getting a little help from the experts at the Smithsonian Institution when Smithsonian magazine brings its annual CultureFest to Phoenix and Scottsdale from Wednesday, November 10, through November 14. The five-day festival features more than 50 programs, lectures, concerts and workshops at more than 30 venues across Phoenix and Scottsdale.

"We assess the cultural pulse of a city before selecting a CultureFest site and were impressed with the vibrancy and growth of the arts community in Phoenix and Scottsdale," says Amy Wilkins, editor of Smithsonian magazine.

Visiting Smithsonian specialists include cowboy folklorist and storyteller Jim Garry, founding editor of Air & Space magazine George Larson, Native American beadwork artist Emil Her Many Horses, and Anthony Brown, renowned jazz musician and curator of American Musical Culture at the National Museum of American History.

The festival kicks off Wednesday with a look inside Smithsonian magazine at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU, and there will be plenty more to catch:

Brown will perform with local musicians Charles Lewis and Dwight Kilian at Kazimierz World Wine Bar in Scottsdale, Thursday, November 11, from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Join Garry at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts as he recounts tales of Old West outlaws, lawmen and lawyers, Friday, November 12, from noon to 1 p.m.

Enjoy cuisine from the Smithsonian Press cookbook Foods of the Americas at the Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley on Saturday, November 13, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Later, take a walking tour of Scottsdale's public art collection, from 4 to 5 p.m., starting at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts.

Most programs are free with SCA admission. Ticketed events include performances and/or meals. To purchase tickets, go to or call 866-468-7621. For a full schedule of events, visit -- Ashlea Deahl

Epic Proportions

SMoCA adds martial arts and music to its latest night

Thu 11/4
Expectations are high for the latest edition of SMoCA (Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts) Nights. The "no arts barred" event has cultivated a following among the hip and irreverently cultured, and to boost our hopes, SMoCA slapped the word "Epic" in the title -- as in "Epic SMoCA Nights" -- for Thursday, November 4, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The sure-fire lineup includes Capoeira Brasil's martial arts movements, followed by the MadCaPs, and Ballet Arizona dancing to DJ Maji and M2 -- along with four exhibitions on view. A runway fashion show brings the night to a stylish close. Admission is $10. SMoCA is located at 7374 East Second Street. Call 480-994-2787. -- Melinda Peer

¡Viva los Muertos!

ASU celebrates

ASU's Department of Anthropology, with the help of local Chicano artists, community members and students, is ready to host its fifth annual Día de los Muertos celebration. Visiones Sagradas (Sacred Sights) will kick off with an opening reception on Thursday, November 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. at ASU's Museum of Anthropology on the corner of Cady and Tyler malls on ASU's main campus in Tempe. Music, food and poetry will accompany an elaborate display of traveling altars, or cajitas, which have been made by locals as a way to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have died. The exhibition will be on display at the museum until December 31. Call 480-965-6224. --Erika Wurst

Cattle Drive

Stock Blocking

Watch out for giant livestock tanks careening down the asphalt when the Cave Creek Wild West Days celebration's stock tank races go down on Saturday, November 6, and Sunday, November 7. The gist? One driver per homemade, non-motorized stock car -- constructed of a metal or rubber livestock tank -- and one to four people pushing from behind. Cart pushers must maintain constant contact with the cart, so it ain't exactly like pushing somebody on a swing. Qualifying rounds for the stock tank sprints (from Harold's Corral to Buffalo Chip Saloon) and the stock tank mile (from Harold's to Wild Willy's) take place Saturday, with finals on Sunday. Call 480-228-5951. --Niki D'Andrea

Arthur, Author

Refreshments' bassist peddles book

Sat 11/6
When Valley legends the Refreshments broke up in 1998, bassist Arthur "Buddy" Edwards traded in the rock life for a quieter existence in Oregon as a novelist. Far from abandoning his past, Edwards put it to work for him in his first foray into rock literature, Stuck Outside of Phoenix. Fresh off a year's worth of fine reviews, Edwards returns to the Valley as a featured author at the Alumni Book Fair, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, November 6, on the ASU Alumni Lawn, Palo Verde Beach and University Drive in Tempe. And while his rock star days are but a memory, he's not averse to a little nostalgia. "I couldn't separate myself from those days if I wanted to," he says. "And I don't want to." Admission is free. Call 480-965-0377.

Kicking Axé

Beautiful booty kicking at the Herberger

Those Brazilians sure know how to do it right. Their country produces some of the best jujitsu grapplers in the world (see the entire Ultimate Fighting Championship series), and it's also the birthplace of Capoeira, a "martial art dance" -- so practitioners look graceful and beautiful while kicking ass. African slaves developed the style more than 400 years ago, as a way of masking their fight training. "The actual fight moves were hidden by dance moves, so when the slave owners saw the slaves practicing, they figured, 'Oh, they're just fooling around,'" says instructor Jay Camara, event coordinator for Axé (pronounced ah-SHAY) Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian performance dance troupe. The style developed into a theatrical, cultural spectacle, and Axé Capoeira's shows include the maculele (a folk dance with machetes and music), the samba, and lots of colorful costumes and lights. Axé Capoeira performs Thursday, November 4, through Sunday, November 7, at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door, and $10 for children 12 and under. Call 602-252-8497. --Niki D'Andrea

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea
Ashlea Deahl
Melinda Peer
Craig Wallach
Erika Wurst