DESERT MILLENNIUM. Y2K isn't the only bug afoot as we reach the century's end. Cactus and ironwood forests are also entering the new millennium on shaky ground, noted in two free lectures and a field trip hosted by the Saguaro National Park.
Today, researchers Ray Turner and Gary Paul Nabhan will discuss the future of this region's famous -- and endangered -- flora. A botanist for the U.S. Geological Survey, Turner has extensively studied the ecology and condition of the Giant Saguaro, particularly its future in the face of urban sprawl and changing natural environments. He'll detail the huge plant's plight at 1 p.m. in the Saguaro National Park East Visitor Center, 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail.
Nabhan is director of conservation and science at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. He'll present slides and describe our new understanding of the Tucson Mountains' ironwood forests. The lecture is 7:30 p.m. in the Saguaro National Park West Visitor Center, 2700 N. Kinney Road.
On Saturday, Stella Tucker of the Tohono O'odham Nation will take visitors into a saguaro forest, and demonstrate methods of harvesting saguaro fruit.
For information and reservations, call 733-5151.
CHRISTMAS CRITTERS. Reid Park Zoo puts on a holiday glow with its annual Festival of Lights display.
Sparkling decorations drape trees throughout the zoo, accompanied by refreshments, stage entertainment, plenty of fascinating critters, and even a visit by ol' St. Nick.
Festival of Lights runs from 6 to 8 p.m. through Sunday in the Reid Park Zoo, east of Country Club Road and north of 22nd Street. Admission today is $2, 50 cents for children, or free with a gift to Toys for Tots. Adult admission is $3 Saturday and Sunday. Call 791-3204 for details.
MERRY MEXICANA. Enjoy the holidays with Latin gusto at the Mariachi Christmas Serenade.
This brassy concert will feature Christmas songs done-up in style by legendary ensembles including Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, Mariachi Cobre, Mariachi Tierra del Sol and El Ballet Folklórico San Juan. Vikki Carr headlines the espectacular Mexican blow-out.
Concert is 8 p.m. in the TCC, 260 S. Church Ave. Tickets range from $26 to $56, and are available at the TCC box office, Dillard's outlets, or by calling 791-4266.
HUNGER ARTISTS. A picture fills a thousand bellies when Elizabeth Cherry Contemporary Art hosts No Red Dots.
Proceeds from this "cash-and-carry" holiday art sale benefit the Tucson Community Food Bank. The exhibit includes work by a small army of local artists, each taking this chance to give a little back to their fellow citizens. Each of the 35 painters, sculptors, photographers and graphics masters have produced three pieces for the show, each priced at $200 or less. They include Hector Acuña, Susan Delaney, Katie Cooper, Herb Stratford, Pam Deutschman, Daniel Diaz and George Huffman, to name just a few.
No Red Dots runs through December 24, with an opening reception from 7 to 10 p.m. today, in Elizabeth Cherry Contemporary Art, 441 E. Grant Road. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
SABINO SOJOURN. Seasonal cheer and natural beauty converge at Music in the Canyon.
Hosted by the fine Friends of Sabino Canyon, this year's gala will feature everything from delectable food to great music, all set against a gorgeous mountainside backdrop.
Strolling musicians and Boy Scouts will guide visitors along a luminaria-lit, quarter-mile walk to the Lowell House. That's where the entertainment unfolds with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, the Redhouse Dancers, the Utterback Alumni Jazz Band, Dale Clark, and Undercover.
Smoky the Bear will be on hand, watching over the fireworks as a silent auction gets underway for prizes including a helicopter ride, a Canyon Ranch retreat and a Disneyland vacation, among other goodies.
Music in the Canyon runs from 5 to 9 p.m. in Sabino Canyon, 5700 N. Sabino Canyon Road. A donation of $1 and two cans of food for the Tucson Community Food Bank are requested. Call 749-1900 for details.
BACKWARDS GLANCE. Take a seasonal step back when Tubac Presidio State Park presents A Victorian Christmas.
"Re-enactors" in Victorian finery will fill the park with sights, sounds, flavors and aromas of the late 1800s. Recitations, carols, handmade tree ornaments and refreshments round out the elegant party.
The actors will strut their timeless stuff in the Old Tubac Schoolhouse, circa 1885, weaving Christmas tales in the personas of U.S. Marshall "Doc" Foster and his family, and soldiers stationed in frontier Arizona. The party coincides with Tubac's yearly Fiesta Navidad open house, running from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
A Victorian Christmas is 7 p.m. in the Tubac Presidio State Park, approximately 45 minutes south of Tucson on I-19. Take Exit 40 to the eastside frontage road, driving south about 2.5 miles. For information, call 398-2252.
WORKING RELATIONSHIP. Shakespeare shows his lighter side in Love's Labour's Lost, staged by Quintessential Productions.
This funny glimpse into the "ways and wiles" of love features a batch of the Bard's finest sonnets, with Quintessential's characteristically top-shelf rendition capturing both the spirit and form of classic 1930s screwball comedies. In the words of William himself, this is a drama spiced by "courtship, bombast and merriment."
Performance is 8 p.m. on the Quintessential Stage, 118 S. Fifth Ave. Performances continue at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday, through December 26. Tomorrow's matinee will include a post-performance discussion of the play. Tickets are $12, $10 for seniors, students and military, and reservations are recommended. For tickets and other information, call 798-0708.
MISSION MUSIC. The Mission San Xavier del Bac gives regional history a tune-up with Camerata Tucson.
The modern festival with ancient roots will feature the Guadalupe Vespers, an ensemble dedicated to preserving Renaissance, Baroque and other early music from Latin America, and Mexico in particular. They'll perform in honor of the Feast of Guadalupe, with most of their music in the Nahuatl or Aztec language of the Virgin de Guadalupe.
And there's plenty of tradition afoot: for eons, the first Christmas music in the Mexico City Cathedral was performed at the conclusion of the Guadalupe Vespers. Proceeds from this event will benefit the mission's exterior restoration program.
Performances are 7 and 8:30 p.m. in the Mission San Xavier. Take I-19 south to Exit 92, and turn right. A $20 donation is suggested. For reservations and other information, call 740-1851.
FINAL ACTS. A fading thespian and his devoted attendant provide bittersweet drama in The Dresser, presented by Live Theater Workshop.
It's the last chance to catch this fine rendition of Ronald Harwood's heartfelt comedy. Played by Phil O'Hern, Sir is an aging Shakespearean actor helped through his final stage days by faithful Norman, played by Jeremy Thompson. Bruce Biezski, Linda Andresano and Stephen Elton round out the cast.
Show time is 3 p.m. in the Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Tickets are $11, $10 for seniors and students, and available by calling 327-4242.
SUITE SAN PEDRO. Enjoy Bach's cello suites in a benefit concert for the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood's San Pedro Chapel.
Gordon Epperson will be performing the solos. A professor emeritus at the UA, he's spent a lifetime teaching, playing and recording. And his material is on a comeback: Bach's suites are receiving more public performances now than at any other time in the past, and the recording audience just keeps growing.
In other words, this enduring music is a fitting tribute to the lovely chapel, long a regional gathering place for weddings, baptisms, memorials and neighborhood events.
Concert is 3 p.m. in the San Pedro Chapel, 5230 E. Fort Lowell Road. Tickets are $10, and available by calling 326-6042.
ALMOST-WILD CATS. Two budding mountain lions are greeting visitors to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
The brother and sister lions, also called pumas, lost their mother and were caught as cubs near Tombstone in 1997. They were hand-reared by professional animal rehabilitators, and have just been released from quarantine as healthy two-year-olds.
"While mountain lions tend to be shy and secretive, we expect ours to be playful and active once they get used to their surroundings," says Peter Siminski, director of living collections at the museum.
The animals can be viewed romping through a mock-natural mountain woodland habitat, with plants, trees and a lookout rock as perks. And their arrival is timely -- the museum recently lost one mountain lion to complications from intestinal surgery, and a 15-year-old female has been retired from active exhibition.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is at 2021 N. Kinney Road. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $9.95, $1.75 for children between 6 and 12, free for children ages 5 and under. For details, call 883-2702.
PILGRIM'S PROGRESS. Journeys across a forbidding frontier are recalled in a discussion of The Bridges That Unite Us: Diary of an Undocumented Immigrant.
Although many have written about the immigrants' plight, this book by Ramon Perez stands alone as the diary of one man openly describing his experience. Coming from a rural Oaxacan village, Perez tells of his adventures in crossing the dangerous U.S.-Mexico border, and subsequent struggle to find work and survive.
The free discussion is 6:30 p.m. in the Woods Memorial Branch Library, 5605 E. River Road. Call 791-4548 for details.
PICTURING PLENTY. Lorraine DarConte's gripping glimpses of Western spirit are detailed in Glowing Harvest of Autumn, now on display in The ARTery Fine Arts Gallery.
DarConte uses Polaroid Image Transfers to craft these strong pieces. They include a triptych of Monument Valley, a saddle and a horse.
All of which is a far cry from her New York roots. Now a freelance writer and photographer, DarConte studied with Arthur Leipzig, and her work has appeared in publications ranging from Modern Photography to Newsday.
Exhibit runs through January 30 in The ARTery Fine Arts Gallery, 2843 N. Campbell Ave. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 327-6094 for information.
CHOW-DOWN. La Placita Village revives a time-honored pastime with the Downtown Feastival and Farmers' Market.
This deluge of delectables features everything from breads, pastries and nuts to sandwiches, fresh flowers, fresh produce and delicacies from downtown's finest eateries, all set against a backdrop of live music. In addition, Lumé Trattoria and Wine Bar, TamaleZ and Scooters Express-O will be open for the events.
Downtown Feastival and Farmers' Market runs from noon to 5 p.m. every Wednesday in La Placita Village, on the southwest corner of Church Avenue and Broadway Boulevard. For information, call 623-2748.