Cover Story: Critics' Summer Picks

Your best bets for summer events

James McKenna

Hot Block Party: Rockin' on Walnut

CAM's 125th Birthday
The 16th annual "A Taste of Duveneck" on June 8 kicks off a summer-long celebration of the Cincinnati Art Museum's 125th birthday. Special events spread from June to September — fun events like the "Celebrity Tours," whose celebrity might be questionable (Don Mueller from reality TV's Who Wants to Marry My Dad? and the Cincinnati Ben-Gals?) but whose presence is sure to create an amusing environment in the too oft-perceived stuffy museum setting. The staff tours, with curators like Dennis Kiel and Julie Arnson, will doubtless be an eye-opening experience to anyone wondering about a certain photograph or painting. Not to miss: the Jazz Picnic in the Courtyard June 28, the All Night Extravaganza (think flashlight tours) Aug. 5, the elegant Joyeux Anniversaire party Sept. 8 and the various Go Kids! Events. (Laura Leffler James)

Hot Laughs: Bob Marley
Comedian Bob Marley is one of those comics who never got a real job after college. The Maine native started doing stand-up while still in school. He also acts, does a bit of writing and has been in development deals with several networks and studios, but stand-up is his primary passion.

"I just love getting up there and making the people laugh," he says. "Coming up with stuff and telling people about it." Marley performs at The Funny Bone in Newport June 29-July 2. (P.F. Wilson)

Hot Baseball Diversion: Florence Freedom
The Florence Freedom, our Frontier League baseball team, slams it home with a back-to-the-basics stadium for adults and enough sideshow promotions to keep the kids (both the big and the little kind) occupied 'til the bottom of the ninth. There's not a bad seat in the house at their snug, 5,000-seat stadium, though passing planes sometimes obscure the sounds of a cracking bat. The game is fast paced, with a young roster of Major League hopefuls, and free prizes and field games between innings — such as water balloon baseball — keep things interesting. The Freedom's season runs through Sept. 4, and tickets are $5-$10. (Stephen Carter-Novotni)

Hot Food Festival: GoettaFest
GoettaFest offers an almost endless parade of impossibly large and firm bellies with shirts stretched tautly across them making their way along the Newport's riverfront, sampling an astonishing variety of goetta-based dishes as they go. Ah, the majesty! The tradition! The grease stains! But seriously, Goettafest Aug. 4-6 is billed as a "total celebration of all things goetta," spreading some love on the traditional German dish made from ground pork, beef and oats. Among the recipes available to try are goetta balls, goetta pizza, goetta Reuben sandwiches, goetta bun links and goetta burgers. In other words, make sure you go with an empty stomach. And protective eye wear is advised — you never know when someone might pop a shirt button. (Chris Kemp)

Hot Country Flavor: Hyde Park Farmer's Market
Get a little country in the city at the Hyde Park Farmer's Market, held every Sunday from June through October. Now in its second year, the market has more than 15 local vendors selling fresh produce, herbs, plants, cheeses, jellies/jams, baked goods and meats and focuses on local products grown by small and family-run producers who use sustainable or organic methods. This means you'll find varieties of fruits and vegetables that you don't typically see at the big supermarkets. Plus, in an increasingly homogenized and globalized world (most food travels more than 2,000 miles to get from factory farm to your table), it's an old-fashioned pleasure to meet the people who actually grow what you eat. The farmers' market was organized by two food enthusiasts, Mary Ida Compton and Judy Williams, who experienced the culinary pleasures of vibrant farmers markets in places like France and San Francisco and decided to try to recreate this at home. The market is held at 3424 Edwards Road near Hyde Park Square, behind the U.S. Bank, at 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays. (Craig Bida)

Hot Membership: Jazz at the Hyatt Series
The adage goes, "If you want it done right, then do it yourself." Despite credence that the Queen City has a lifeless Jazz culture, there are still "do-it-yourself" minded individuals like Dr. Walter "Doc B" Broadnax giving verve to the scene. He started a Sunday Jazz series at Parktown Café and expanded to Tuesday nights at Newport's Coconut Grove, bringing in local as well as national acts, Finally, in June 2005 he reintroduced Jazz at the Hyatt, a concert series heralding Cincinnati's own improvisational scene with performances from free-form musicians like Clark Terry, Acid-Jazz antecedent Reuben Wilson, Grant Green Jr. and legendary Ray Charles Band sideman David "Fathead" Newman, whose 2005 disc, I Remember Ray, was lauded JazzWeek's "Best of 2005." Annual memberships to the series are $50, entitling two free tickets for every local and regional act and two half-priced tickets for national acts. The series continues every Friday at 8 p.m. (Mildred C. Fallen)

Hot Wheels: Newport Motorcycle Rally
Cincinnati is known for their Flying Pigs, and now Newport is promoting its own type of hog. A celebration of motorcycles and the people who love them, the Newport Motorcycle Rally will heat things up June 30-July 4 down on Riverboat Row. Festival highlights include motorcycle rides July 1 and 2 and the Budweiser Custom Bike Drawing. The event wraps up with a motorcycle awards show July 4 to award prizes to the 20 best looking bikes. Attendees can shop for clothes and motorcycle paraphernalia or get a tattoo from one of the on site parlors, local bands will provide entertainment, and there will be no shortage of food and beverages. (Christine Mersch)

Hot Update: PKI Nick Kids Area
Consistently recognized for having one of the best kid-themed areas of any amusement park in the nation, Paramount's Kings Island decided that a makeover would further cement their standing in that competitive field. All but gone are the Hannah Barbera characters, now relegated to a film in the Action FX Theatre on the other side of the property. Only Scooby Doo's Haunted Castle remains, while the Nickelodeon staples that had already gained a foothold over the past decade have replaced his colleagues. In fact, the whole area has been renamed Nickelodeon Universe. Six of the 18 rides are new, including an Avatar "Airbender" rollercoaster and Danny Phantom's Flyers, a ride on which you lie on a small platform and simulate flying. It's actually quite relaxing for grown-ups. The remaining dozen attractions have been re-themed and upgraded. (All of which might change now that PKI has been sold to Cedar Point.) Boomers and Gen-Xers might mourn the departure of Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear and all, but let's face it: Kids today don't know Atom Ant from, well, Adam Ant. (P.F. Wilson)

Hot Heights: Purple People Bridge Cl!mb
Only Australia and New Zealand have bridge climbs similar to that of the Purple People Bridge Cl!mb scheduled to open June 1 at Newport on the Levee. With the distinction of being the first of its kind in this hemisphere, the climb has all the elements of a theme park attraction: flashy colors (purple and yellow on everything from the Web site to the jump suits climbers wear), a logo that incorporates the shape of a bridge and infusing excitement into the name with an "!" The corniness extends to proposed theme climbs such as recognizing International Talk Like a Pirate Day Sept. 19, when climbers dressed in pirate attire will be "walking the plank." Moving beyond the means to get people to fork over a minimum $59.95 per to make the 2 1/2-hour walk, the experience of climbing is unlike anything we Midwestern flatlanders would experience short of a hiking trip in the mountains. Cat walks and hand railings are being installed to make the climb user friendly and safe. (Margo Pierce)

Hot New Red: Bronson Arroyo
True fans would be loathe to admit it, but in recent seasons the only thing that qualified as a "Hot Red" at the ballpark was the smoked sausage they served at concession stands. And even they were awful suspect at the time. Today it's a different story. No less than three newcomers on the 2006 Cincinnati Reds club could easily top this list. There's Brandon Phillips, who almost single-handedly carried the team for a stretch earlier in the season, and the unheralded Scott Hatteberg, who has quietly put up great numbers in a very tough role. But the key to the red-hot start for this year's squad and what every club since the 1999 team lacked was starting pitching. Enter Bronson Arroyo, who's high-kicked his way into fans' hearts with wicked stuff on the mound and a refreshing candor this town hasn't seen since David Wells left town on a beer truck. Arroyo's frank comments after he blew a game against the cellar-dwelling Pirates just solidified his rep in these parts. Welcome to town, brother Bronson. Don't mind if we ride your wave for a few months, OK? (Rodger Pille)

Hot Block Party: Rockin' on Walnut
In case you haven't noticed, the city center is gradually moving away from its post-9-to-5 "ghost town" reputation. This summer, Downtown Cincinnati Inc. is giving action-seekers another reason to venture in, with the debut of the Rockin' on Walnut music series this Friday. Revelers can enjoy some of the cream of the local music crop, with free happy-hour concerts every Friday at Bella restaurant (with "plugged" sets at 5-8 p.m. followed by "unplugged" performances) and its across-the-street neighbor, the Contemporary Arts Center (5-8 p.m.). There's an impressive array of music, including Pop Rock (Only Everything, The Swarthy Band, Chaselounge); Reggae (Selecter, Zionites); Jazz (The Faux Frenchmen, Terra Azul); World music (Mohenjo Daro); Blues (Them Bones); Indie Rock (Campfire Crush, (in)camera [pictured]); and a healthy dose of singer/songwriters (Tracy Walker, Kevin Fox, Chris Mouch). If you need more incentive, how about free appetizers from area restaurants, drink and dinner specials and raffle prizes? (Mike Breen)

Hot Chicks: Cincinnati Rollergirls
The vintage merry-go-round of flesh, hair and beer that is roller derby returns to town in the form of the Cincinnati Rollergirls. The sport involves two teams of five players each circling a track in opposite directions. One skater on each team — the jammer — scores points by doing laps while avoiding the other team's defense. The other four skaters push, block and elbow to help their jammer through and do their best to stymie the opposition's jammer. It's a tradition started during the Great Depression, reaching critical mass in the 1960s and fizzling in the late '70s. The Cincinnati team is a part of a recent revival; the Women's Flat Track Derby Association reports a membership of more than 25 leagues, and many others are forming nationally. The Cincinnati Rollergirls was founded in late 2005 by Paula Estes and Christa Zielke and are gearing up for the inaugural season, to begin Aug. 13. A benefit concert is planned for 9 p.m. July 8 at the Southgate House. (Stephen Carter-Novotni)

Hot Resurrection: Six Acres Bed & Breakfast
I expected to just talk to Kristin Kitchen, owner of Six Acres Bed & Breakfast, about the place's summer concert series. As it turns out, the concerts are just a small part of the building's lure. The old home on Hamilton Avenue is approximately 160 years old, a historic stop on the Underground Railroad, but its history hasn't paid attention to in decades. Kitchen, a real estate developer, started to pass it every day on her way to church, and one day she stopped and climbed in a broken window. She broke down in tears, feeling "so much magic in the house," as if someone were telling her she must bring it back to life. And she has. From a 2001 CityBeat "Blight of the Week" to a comfy bed and breakfast with kitschy African-American art and immaculate gardens. The concert series (six Sundays between June 18 and Sept. 10) this summer will feature a Reggae band, The Last Boppers, Mike Wade and more. While you're there, ask to see the crawl space used to house escaped slaves. Run your finger along the prayer circle carved into the ground, and I promise you'll feel the magic, too. (Laura Leffler James)

Hot Dog: Opera Dogs
You never heard of Dog Giovanni? Canine Carmen? Pack up your pup and head to the first annual Opera Dogs June 11 in Washington Park, across from historic Music Hall. Sponsored by iRhine, organizers want to start the Cincinnati Opera season off with a loud bark by giving dog owners an opportunity to compete in two categories: Best Dog Costume and Best DogOpera Singer. Cincinnati Opera's Tom Smith, P&G's Robert Killins, and Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell will serve as judges, and the first 200 dogs to register will receive goodie bags. Registration is free and begins at 11:30 a.m. in Washington Park. You won't want to miss the Dog Singing contest at 1, followed by a grand parade to 14th and Main, where the Second Sunday on Main market will be in full swing. And if opera isn't your musical pleasure, Jake Speed and the Freddies will provide additional entertainment. (Anne Arenstein)

Hot Ticket: Cirque du Soleil
There's a fine line between circus and theater, and no organization blurs it more successfully than Cirque du Soleil, which has staged breathtaking and innovative entertainments for more than two decades. Cirque brings one of its trademark shows to Cincinnati's riverfront this summer, as Quidam happens Aug. 24-Sept. 17 in a tent village constructed just west of Great American Ball Park. Cirque, which has touring shows like this one in addition to resident companies in places like Orlando and Las Vegas (where four spectacular shows draw in hundreds of thousands of visitors), blends acrobatics, state-of-the-art lighting, moody New Age music, extravagant costumes and surreal makeup to create a remarkable product, one that can legitimately be called "unique." Quidam (a L atin word meaning "anonymous passerby") describes a young girl's adventure in an alternate universe where she journeys from an alienated world to a place of hope and connection — a tale offered in the form of 90 minutes of surreal images, aerial contortions and acrobatic artistry and musical inspiration. Seen worldwide by more than 8 million people, it's bound to be one of the hottest tickets in Cincinnati this summer. (Rick Pender)

Hot Race: Soap Box Derby
On June 24, for the first time in 28 years, the Soap Box Derby returns to Cincinnati. A pint-sized car race, the derby will include kids ages 8-17 who've probably never even heard of such a thing, unless of course their parents were runners-up in, say, the 1980 Derby in Wooster, Ohio. The children involved will make their own cars, just like they did back in the 1930s when the Soap Box Derby originated. Back then, the kids used discarded lumber and made box-like "cars" with hand-built wheels. The children would line up at the top of the hill and roll — no pedals, no machinery — and whoever reached the bottom first won. In 2006 we might expect a little more Rock & Roll to the vehicles, but the cars still are powered by gravity only. Likewise, the Soap Box Derby goals haven't changed, says event organizer Greg Newberry: "We want to teach youngsters some of the basic skills of workmanship, the spirit of competition and the perseverance to continue a project once it has begun." (Laura Leffler James)

Hot Theater: Jersey Productions at The Carnegie
Whether you call it straw hat or summer stock, it's been a while since Cincinnati theatergoers have had many old-fashioned musicals during the warmer months. CCM's Hot Summer Nights and summer productions at Playhouse in the Park stopped after 2002, and there's been only a trickle of tunes for the past three summers. Now the beautifully renovated 400-seat Otto M. Budig Theatre at Covington's Carnegie Center is providing a venue eager to serve the needs of folks who love heading home humming a good tune. Jersey Productions will offer a three-show season (and a plan to stick to it beyond the summer) that kicks off with Godspell (June 23-July 8) and its gentle message of kindness, tolerance and love. Next is one of the most praised musicals of recent years, Ragtime (Aug. 4-19), with music by CCM grad Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Wrapping up the season is Kander and Ebb's classic 1967 Tony Award winner Cabaret, a hit with staying power that won another Tony with its 1998 Broadway revival. Three great choices at a theater you'll grow to love — that's a hot summer pick. 859-957-1940. (Rick Pender)

Hot Pop Rocker: Beau Alquizola
I remember us, the writer and the rocker, kicking back in front of the Hyde Park Coffee Emporium a couple of summers ago, dreaming about making an assault on the Cincinnati scene. Well, the rocker is charging ahead on his claim. Alquizola will be one of the featured acts at this year's Pride Alive Festival June 10 and then will be escaping the heat in the studio with the Beau Alquizola Band (Ben Schummer, Steven Gregory, Shaun Henry, Sharon Udoh and Matt Retherford) as they work on their first CD as a full band. The heat index began rising last year with Alquizola's debut disc, Please Keep the Door Closed, along with appearance at three national music festivals and the recent Fleetwood Mac Tribute here in town. To sample the flava, music lovers can download his songs from iTunes, check him out at or scan CityBeat's music listings for a chance to catch a local performance. Dream on! (tt clinkscales)

Hot Moves: The Living Breath
The newly-hatched modern dance duo The Living Breath want to take off and explore new directions — skyward, for one. Founding members Holly Price and Rebecca Parker breathe life into edgy contemporary dance forms by drawing internal, personal experiences to the surface through visceral creative expression, such as melding breath work with bodily weight sharing and defying gravity. Experimenting with aerial dance, a modern sub-genre that's been generating some buzz and garnering new fans, The Living Breath seeks to present work that's ethereal, elemental and exciting. Aerial dance, as its name suggests, is done off the ground, taking movement possibilities to new heights via a pair of narrowish swaths of fabric (or even rope) suspended vertically from a single anchor point for multi-axial motion. They'll be premiering their collaborative work Opening at Contemporary Dance Theater's annual Choreographers Without Companies showcase this weekend; the piece will also be presented at Fringe Festival. It's based on a dream, laced with archetypes, that Price dreamed and Parker interpreted. (Julie Mullins)

Hot Rock: Peter Frampton and the Cincinnati Pops
On June 24, the Cincinnati Pops open their 2006 season at Riverbend Music Center featuring the man who completely altered the music industry's perceptions of what a live album could achieve with just three words three decades ago: Frampton Comes Alive. Guitarist Peter Frampton and his band will join the Pops in translating some of Frampton's most well known Rock compositions into the Classical realm, thanks to the gifted arrangements of conductor Steven Reineke. In addition to time-tested favorites, Frampton and Reineke have also collaborated on one entirely new piece for the concert. Frampton's symphonic debut could well lead to his appearance with other orchestras around the country, a possibility that's being discussed right now. This summer also finds Frampton celebrating his return to A&M Records, the label he was with when he enjoyed his greatest successes in the '70s and where he's at work on a new album. Baby, you will most definitely love his way. (Brian Baker)

Hot Book: Idiots on Parade
Once the domain of rebels and "deviants," graffiti art is now a worldwide phenomenon, an "accepted" art form appearing everywhere from Calvin Klein ads to conventional galleries. Few know this evolution better than DF Crew, 27 artists — some of whom date back to the form's nexus — whose freewheeling, collaborative (and solo) pieces started appearing in 1991. The intro of a new book celebrating the crew's work, DF: Idiots on Parade, describes their mission with usual playfulness: "Sub and Emit decided to bring together a crew of the finest graffiti artists in the world in an audacious attempt create a bold ensemble piece of work. ... It didn't quite work out. They apologize in advance." The duo recruited the likes of When, Quisp, Jive, Dalek, Gaze, Just 195 and Vogue, all of whom appear in the glossy pages of Idiots on Parade, a handsome hardback published by Shake It, the first endeavor in the local music store's freshly minted publishing arm. A book release/art exhibition is set for June 2 at Powerhouse Factories (30 W. Pike St., Covington), where several of the artists will attend and show off their talents on a 40-foot wall. (Jason Gargano)

Hot Retrospective: Nam June Paik
A Tribute to Nam June Paik (1932-2006) at the Carl Solway Gallery is an intimate yet remarkably multifaceted homage to the life and career of this Korean-born artist. Known predominantly as the "father of video art," Paik was also a performance artist, musician, sculptor, film maker and teacher. While the focal points of this exhibition are Paik's large-scale video sculptures, smaller aspects of the show acknowledge nearly all of the afore-mentioned features of his life and career. Memorabilia such as sketches, letters and photographs collected by the Solway over the past 20 years adorn the walls, while Paik's videos are intermingled with his physical sculptural works. In a small room adjacent to the main space, one encounters the artist's prints and robot-like sketches for his more humanoid sculptural installations. On view through July 29. (Sarah Stephens)

Hot Newsmaker: Sheriff Richard Jones
Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones has a flair for inflaming passions on both sides of the illegal immigration issue and gaining the attention of the national media spotlight in the process. A longtime deputy who was elected sheriff in late 2004, he's a persistent critic of the Bush administration's immigration policies. He gained notoriety in October when he began sending bills to the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking to cover the cost of keeping alleged illegal immigrants in the county jail. In May, Jones' deputies arrested and released 18 Hispanic people from a home construction site in Wayne Township. The quick release was because local law enforcement agencies usually don't have the authority to enforce immigration laws unless special circumstances apply. Jones has pledged to get the additional training and certification needed for a few deputies so they can begin enforcing the laws when necessary. Such unconventional methods have made him the darling of cable TV news outlets like CNN and Fox News. (Kevin Osborne)

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