Some Taste of Dallas festivals have been disastrous affairs with crowds doing more cooking on the hot West End asphalt than vendors do with their portable Sternos. It's one of those shindigs where you have to buy tickets at a booth, and when you find out how many tickets it costs to get some cold "hot" wings, you pretty much lose your appetite. (And don't even get us started on how many tickets it takes to get one of those godawful watered-down beers.) Luckily, for this year's 18th annual shindig, organizers are catching up with the times and taking a cue from the "foodie" culture that's sprung up with Central Market and Whole Foods devotees. So if you don't trust the guy in the hairnet dumping congealed queso on some stale tortilla chips, then check out the guest speakers and cooking demonstrations. Highlights include Patrick Obinabo of Kalahari Foods on Friday at 5 p.m., Carol Ritchie of Cookin' With Carol pseudo-fame Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and chef Steven Pilat of the Art Institute of Dallas on Sunday at 5 p.m. This year's festival also features a surprisingly diverse musical lineup, or at least better than your average street festival. The headlining bands should even draw crowds indifferent to all the foodie happenings going on. The main stage's headlining acts include local rock faves the Burden Brothers on Friday, hip-hop collective Jurassic 5 on Saturday and classic rockers Rare Earth on Sunday. Taste of Dallas is 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday in the West End Historic District. Admission is free. Call 214-741-7185 or visit www.tasteofdallas.org. --Jay Webb
To the Moon
In 1972, an 18-year-old mother is stabbed to death in her DeClare, Oklahoma, trailer. Her month-old son disappears. Thirty years later, a Hollywood veterinarian visits DeClare to find his biological mother, who, he learns, was murdered. Billie Letts sure knows how to tell a story, and her latest is a murder mystery called Shoot the Moon. Her previous novel, Where the Heart Is, about a pregnant girl stranded by her boyfriend, was--surprise, surprise--an Oprah Book Club Selection (and is now a favorite movie on the Oxygen network). Not bad for a woman who spent most of her life as a housewife and mother before sitting down, at 55, to write the stories in her head. Letts promotes Shoot the Moon at the Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Park, 7700 W. Northwest Highway. Call 214-739-1124. --Paul Kix
We have a soft spot for the Eurythmics, but hearing "Here Comes the Rain Again" on the radio hits a little too close to home. For the past month, we've lived under an umbrella and forded small rivers in parking lots. When weather becomes your life, you can't help but become a little obsessed with learning the science behind meteorological phenomenon. Good thing that that's exactly what you can do at Dallas Museum of Natural History's Weather Day. Plus, once you've mastered the science of weather, move on to creating your own forecast, making weather-related crafts or learning facts and tips from meteorologist Greg Fields. The event runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 10 at 3535 Grand Ave. in Fair Park. Call 214-421-3466. --Michelle Martinez
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The fun without the fare
There are certain aspects of French culture that you have to experience to appreciate. Shopping along the Champs-Elysées, seeing the Eiffel Tower at night, being evacuated from the Louvre for "security reasons" and missing your train because your stupid, lazy American brain can't grasp the concept of the 24-hour clock are just a few examples. France is a long plane ride away, though, so L'Alliance Française du Nord du Texas is bringing a little bit of the country to us. In honor of Bastille Day, commemorating the fall of the French fortress in 1789, the organization is presenting its annual Bal Populaire on Saturday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Along with "French joie de vivre," the celebration will also include food, music and a silent auction. So brush up on your mercis and bonjours and head to the Haggar Center at the University of Dallas, 1845 E. Northgate Drive in Irving. Tickets are $35. Call 972-447-2055 or visit www.afnorthtexas.org. --Rhonda Reinhart
Stand-up comedy is not all fun and games
A great man (or television character, rather) named Ricky Gervais said it all when he reasoned that "you can't put a price on comedy." This nugget of wisdom works on a number of levels. The ability to laugh is invaluable; it's the ultimate outlet for stress. Those who enable us to laugh are obviously of equal importance, but at what cost? Is the torturous creative process worth it? If there's anything else patently true about comedy, it's that its birth is no fun. The Dallas Film Series brings a homegrown "mockumentary"--Eric Jewell and Jeff Hays' Shtickmen--about the life and times of a struggling local comedian to the Studio Movie Grill on Thursday. It has an eccentric cast of characters that brings to mind Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman, and considering local comic Dean Lewis is here as well, along with the premiere of a short film called Based on a True Story, the $5 admission is a price that can't be disputed. The Studio Movie Grill is at 5405 Belt Line Road. Call 972-991-MOVIE. --Matt Hursh