While reading press releases each week, I am amazed to see the variety of free events, services and items offered in Tucson. I don't agree with the idea that something free is not valued because it wasn't paid for. Instead, I think free is a treat to be shared.
In that vein, here's a sampling of no-cost offerings in our burg.
Community Swap Meet: Look inside a trash bin at an apartment complex, and you may be surprised at the usable items people throw away. Be kind to the Earth, and swap instead. From 9 a.m. to noon on the third Saturday of the month at Himmel Park, swap useful items, edibles, music, art, skills and gifts. Himmel Park is at 1000 N. Tucson Blvd. Call 392-9356 for more info.
Craft-a-Palooza: Get that space on your refrigerator ready, and bring your kids to a family crafts event. The northwest-side Bookmans (3733 W. Ina Road) provides craft supplies from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. You provide the creativity. Questions? Call 579-0303.
Dance the Tango: If you're inspired by Dancing With the Stars, sashay to Casa Vicente Restaurante Español on Wednesdays. A free tango class is offered from 7:15 to 8 p.m. Dancing continues to 10 p.m. Casa Vicente is at 375 S. Stone Ave.
Guitar for Kids: With budget cuts diminishing school-music programs, it's good to know local musicians have stepped up. The 17th Street Guitar and World Music Store offers free beginner guitar lessons on Fridays: Ages 6 to 12 at 3:30 p.m.; 13 and older at 4:30 p.m. The store is at 840 E. 17th St. Call 624-8821, ext. 7147, for more info.
Health Screenings: More than one-third of Americans are obese. Get the skinny on your fat by getting your BMI (body mass index) checked. Radiant Research offers this—and cholesterol, blood-sugar and gout screenings—at no charge. Screenings take place from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m., every Wednesday, at 7840 E. Broadway Blvd., No. 140. Call 885-6793 to schedule an appointment.
Main Gate Music: Catch some cool jazz melodies at the Summer Jazz Concert series at Main Gate Square. At 7 p.m. on the first and third Fridays of the month (starting May 4), free performances add to the nighttime ambiance. May 4: The Tryst; May 18: Domingo DeGrazia Band. For June, July and August performers, visit www.maingatesquare.com.
Movie Musicals: Watching Gene Kelly dance the title number in Singin' in the Rain is—as the song goes—a glorious feeling. Watch it free at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort on Friday, May 4. Upcoming movies are The Sound of Music on May 11, Grease on May 18, Strictly Ballroom on June 1, and The Wizard of Oz on June 8. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. Loews is at 7000 N. Resort Drive. Call 299-2020 for more info.
Pet Fix: The Humane Society of the United States reports that 4 million cats and dogs are put down each year. That's one every eight seconds. Residents within the area bounded by Interstate 10 on the west; Prince Road, the Rillito River or Fort Lowell Road to the north; Columbus Boulevard to the east; and Speedway Boulevard to the south qualify for a free spay/neuter for a companion animal; residents of some other local communities do as well. Do your part to help control pet overpopulation. Visit www.awasa.org for more details.
Public Gardens and Parks: Celebrate National Public Gardens Day on Friday, May 11, with free admission to Tucson Botanical Gardens (2150 N. Alvernon Way) and Tohono Chul Park (7366 N. Paseo del Norte). Enjoy free entry to Saguaro National Park on Saturday, June 9 (Get Outdoors Day); Saturday, Sept. 29 (National Public Lands Day); and Saturday through Monday, Nov. 10 to 12 (Veterans Day).
Seeds for Your Garden: National Gardening Month was celebrated in April, but recognizing the value of growing your own food is timeless. Pima County Public Library cardholders—it's free to get one—can check out seeds at these local branches: Salazar-Ajo, Flowing Wells, Himmel Park, Joel Valdez and Quincie Douglas. To keep the library self-sustaining, gardeners are encouraged to save seeds for others at harvest-time. For more info, visit www.library.pima.gov/seed-library. Type "seed library" in the search box to see what seeds are available.