City Week

A spelling bee, our city's birthday, and more!


Think You Can Spell?

3rd Annual Adult Spelling Bee Tournament of Champions

7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 13

Sky Bar536 N. Fourth Ave.


While attending a conference in Portland, Ore., Karen Greene took part in a spelling bee held at a bar. Greene loved the idea so much that she brought the concept to Tony Vaccaro, owner of Sky Bar, where adults now compete in a spelling bee on the second Tuesday of each month.

Next Tuesday, the bar will host its third annual tournament of champions, with previous monthly winners competing against each other, as well as newcomers who want to challenge the veterans. Up to 25 people can compete in the championship.

In this spelling bee, nobody walks away empty-handed. Even if you are the first person out, you will get a coupon for a free slice of pizza from Brooklyn Pizza.

During the first two rounds, the words are relatively easy. In the third round, the words get tougher, but you get to choose which of two words you want to spell. The word you decline to spell becomes one of the words the next person chooses from.

"Lots of people stay in the first and second round ... then they reach the third round and they drop like flies," Greene said.

The fourth round is even harder.

"We have never gotten to the fifth round," Greene said. "These are words you've never heard of."

The winner of the championship will receive a trophy and a $25 gift certificate from Brooklyn Pizza.

"It is fun; it is not competitive where people are mean," Greene said. "It is people who love words and are supportive."

Sign-ups start at 6:30 p.m., and there is no fee to enter the contest. And with Tuesday being family night at Sky Bar, you might want to bring along some relatives to cheer you on.



Happy 238th Birthday, Tucson!

Celebrate With the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 10

Southern Arizona Transportation Museum414 N. Toole Ave.


The Southern Arizona Transportation Museum is helping Tucson celebrate its 238th birthday by offering cake and a peek into the city's history.

Attendees can observe operating model trains, check out Union Pacific's diesel simulator for Operation Lifesaver and listen for the UP diesels pulling mile-long freight trains. They can also climb into the cab of historic steam engine No. 1673 and ring its bell. The steam engine, which spent many years in Himmel Park, was featured in the movie Oklahoma. Kenneth Karrels, the museum's chairman, says that the museum volunteers work to keep the engine looking new.

"The engine was built in 1900; we're talking 113 years now," Karrels said.

The event is free and all of the exhibits are bilingual. Whistles and other goodies provided by Amtrak will given to kids, and some of the festivities will take place in the Amtrak lobby at 400 N. Toole Ave.

At 11 a.m., Mayor Jonathan Rothschild will read the city's proclamation in honor of Tucson's birthday, which will be followed by the cutting of a birthday cake. The city's official birthday is Aug. 20, but events honoring the 1775 founding of the Tucson presidio are being celebrated all month.

Karrels encourages people to come by and "stop, look and listen."

An event such as this "brings people together," he said. "It's memories', it's recollections', it's remembering something that's passed, but it's also bringing it to the future."



Less is More

Line/Work: New Drawings in Steel by Gary Swimmer

Through Wednesday, Aug. 14

Jewish Community Center3800 E. River Road


When it comes to art, setting strict limitations can sometimes be the best way to spark creativity.

"Sometimes in life, paring one's ideas down to the raw, bare-bone, essential and expressive marks that produce a visual statement seems the only course," Gary Swimmer said in a statement about his Line/Work pieces on display at the Jewish Community Center.

For this collection, Swimmer limited himself by drawing with steel lines.

Swimmer says a lot of history went into making his exhibit. Swimmer was born in Hungary and is the only child of two Holocaust survivors. He came to the United States as a child and has since worked and studied art in New York; Baltimore; Tucson; and Liege, Belgium. He says the pieces address issues he'd been focusing on for years, such as optimism, curiosity and imperfection.

Swimmer credits two artists as the inspiration for this exhibit: Roy Lichtenstein, for his free-standing sculptures, and Tom Wesselmann.

"I have to give a major nod to Tom Wesselmann's wall pieces, which planted a seed in my mind ever since I first saw them in New York back in the 1980s," Swimmer said. "All these years later I have at long last started to fabricate my work in steel."

The pieces, which are dedicated to Swimmer's mom, will be up until Aug. 14.

Swimmer also has works on display in a group show at Obsidian Gallery, 410 N. Toole Ave., and at Jack and Marcel in New York City.

The JCC Gallery is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday; 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday; and 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday. The gallery is closed on Saturdays and all Jewish holidays.—C.G.


Learn About Wildlife

Go Wild! Family Day

10 a.m.. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17; 6:30 to 9 a.m., Sunday, Aug. 18

The Riverpark Inn305 S. Freeway


As part of its Bird & Wildlife Festival, the Tucson Audubon Society is hosting a day of free family activities. On Saturday, children will be able to get their faces painted, build bird feeders and interact with live birds and insects.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Kevin Bonine of Biosphere 2 will show snakes and other reptiles.

Arizona Game and Fish officials will talk about how animals manage to survive in harsh desert conditions, and animals on display will include a great-horned owl and a desert tortoise.

At 1 p.m., a presentation on how to identify birds will be geared toward families and beginning birders. It should be a good introduction for kids who want to participate in the next day's Youth Birding outing. From 6:30 to 9 a.m. on Sunday, kids age 8 to 18 (and their parents) can go birding at the Sweetwater Wetlands.

Saturday's final presentation, starting at 2:30 p.m., includes a discussion of things snakes do that may seem out of character—including have a social life. Snakes care for their young and help their neighbors, which will be demonstrated through footage from a time-lapse video.

For more details or to RSVP, contact festival coordinator Erin Olmstead at 209-1809 or


About The Authors

Chelo Grubb

Bookworm, cat lady, journalism enthusiast.
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