Checking our electricity bills, it would appear that it's been summer for more than a month already. But, alas, the official first day of summer is Saturday. It's the longest day of the year, also known as the summer solstice, or, alternatively, the formal decree that, "It's only going to get worse from here." So the choices are: Stock up on sunscreen and Freon for the long, hot summer, or horde the nonperishable food items and telecommute until Labor Day. Pick the latter, and you'll have our eternal envy and a lovely pasty complexion. Choose the former, and you might as well revel in your insanity with your sun-loving brethren during SolstiCelebration, the annual shindig thrown by Celestial Rhythm Celebrations. The picnic, performances and ceremony--taking place (mercifully) in the evening, mainly--honors the earth's natural cycle and, here's the best part, the beginning of months of shorter days and less sunlight. This year's SolstiCelebration kicks off at 4 p.m. beneath the trees of The Big Thicket on White Rock Lake with picnicking and an array of activities involving those leafy friends. There's the Peace Tree, the Healing Tree, the Memory Tree, the Peace Crane Tree and the Singing Tree. The first four involve tying fabrics or objects to branches to honor or say a prayer, and the final is Jimmy Barcus and friends performing live music, though probably not up a tree. In addition, the early events also include storytelling, Kids' Corner, yoga lessons in the grove and a series of spirit walks and labyrinths (the walking-while-meditating type, not the kind with David Bowie with cat-eye makeup and a sock down his slacks). The Hour of Joy rings in at 6 p.m. when there will be several dance performances and a magic show for the kids. Finally, the Summer Solstice Service starts at 7 p.m. with several ritual performances honoring the earth and the sun with poetry, dance and meditation. Bring gas or electric lanterns or candles in glass holders to illuminate the woods after dark. The Big Thicket is located at 430 E. Lawther Drive. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted. Call the Celestial Rhythm Celebrations hotline at 972-498-8788. --Shannon Sutlief
Get Your Hands Up
After you've spent the first official day of summer boating, barbecuing and broiling in the sun, you can extend your Juneteenth weekend celebration with a cool night visit to the Black Academy of Arts and Letters for a two-day 10 p.m.-to-midnight serving of slamming, jamming, hip-hopping poetry and underground sound/soul music in the Clarence Muse Café Theatre at the corner of Akard and Canton streets. Onstage at the third annual Spoken Word 'Til Midnight event will be the likes of Emotion Brown, Ordained in Lyrics, Common Folk, Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Slam All-Star Rock Baby, bongo-playing Dallas poet Flow Row and Judah the Black Rose. And get ready for a jazz drummer on the rise: local standout Melvin Clay, whose most recent honor came when he was selected Most Outstanding Jazz Percussionist at the Wichita State Jazz Fest. And producer Camika Spencer and director Curtis King promise this will be no sit-on-your-hands affair. Bring the whole family and be ready to clap your hands and sing along. Admission for the Saturday and Sunday performances is $15, and there will be plenty of wine and cold watermelon on hand. Call 214-743-2449. --Carlton Stowers
Chrysler brings its upscale road show to town
We were hopeful when we saw the name: Chrysler's Art of Driving national tour. At last, the rationale behind Dallasites' driving might become clear--the abrupt unsignaled lane changes, the bobs and weaves, drivers heading the wrong way up one-way streets, the obliviousness to traffic signals. Why, we're not bad drivers really. We're artistes, working the pavement like a canvas, freeform, à la Pollock. Unfortunately, the Chrysler showcase isn't what we thought it was. It's the car-maker's effort to give buyers "the opportunity to enjoy a range of upscale activities and vehicles that symbolize their good taste," according to press material. Ah, yes. More pretension. Just what Dallas needs. The Art of Driving tour offers tents sponsored by high-end lifestyle magazines such as Food & Wine, GQ, Harper's Bazaar and others featuring tips on golfing, cooking demonstrations and a how-to on cigar rolling. You can also drive Chrysler's newest models, the Pacifica "tail wagon" and sporty Crossfire. The tour comes to Southfork Ranch on June 21 and June 22. For Call 1-888-639-6366 or visit www.chrysler.com/artofdriving. --Patrick Williams
Usually, the only time my daughter and I get contemplative with each other is during storms. Not because we're put in a pensive mood from the beautiful sound of raindrops or the harmonic cacophony of lightning, but because that's when our satellite TV goes on the fritz. So I think the cure for my poor parenting--for one weekend, at least--is to take her to the Midway Balloon Festival (June 20 through June 22, Midway Airport, halfway between Midlothian and Waxahachie off U.S. Highway 287). Besides the family fun to be had with arts, crafts, live bands and the like, there also will be some 40 hot-air balloons taking to the sky. If you've never seen a squadron of HOBs take flight, then you don't realize how majestic ballooning can be. Seeing it makes you reflective. Perhaps you'll discuss with your child how the first such balloon was lifted by using gas that was the byproduct of burning wool and wet straw. Perhaps you'll discuss man's desire to fly. Perhaps you'll discuss Finding Nemo. In any case, you'll enjoy each other's company. Call 817-473-7738. --Eric Celeste
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