New Year's Guide City Week

Racing Through the New Year

Second Annual Roger McCluskey Classic
Gates open at 11 a.m., racing at 1 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1
United Sports Arizona, 4300 E. Los Reales Road

One of the most recognized sporting events in the world is the Indianapolis 500. It's also got one hell of a weird award for the winner--the bottle of milk (recently voted No. 1 in Sports Illustrated's "Sports World's Coolest Prizes"). However, with the right amount of attention (this should be a healthy start), Tucson's Roger McCluskey Classic could comfortably settle into the second-biggest racing event in the world. (OK, maybe not, but bear with me.)

There may be some of you wondering: Just who is Roger McCluskey? Great question (as I, myself, asked it). According to Race Coordinator Hal Burns, McCluskey is a local sports legend. "Roger McCluskey was a racer who grew up in Tucson and drove Indy cars," Burns said. "He was one of Tucson's greatest athletes and was even inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame."

Although McCluskey never won the big one, he did make quite a name for himself in the racing world when he won the USAC Sprint Car title in '63 and '66, and the USAC Stock Car title in '69 and '70. (He also had some high Indy 500 finishes). He passed away in 1993.

Burns notes this year's event looks to be as great as the inaugural event. With sprint and modified cars coming from everywhere from Arkansas to California, Burns expects another great weekend of racing. "It's a big show," Burns said. "There will be more than 100 race cars in the pits, and it looks to be two action-packed days of racing."

There's only one way to know for sure: Head over to United Sports Arizona this weekend. General admission tickets are $15, with juniors, seniors and military personnel paying $12; children 11 and below get in for free. Those who want to look into entering their non-wing sprint or modified cars should check out for the entry form and fees.

A Dinamita New Year

Club Latino Americano presents A New Year's Dance and Fundraiser
7 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 31
Hotel Arizona
181 W. Broadway Blvd.

Nothing nails the spirit of ringing in the New Year like a little charity and tons and tons of dancing. In that spirit, Tucson's Club Latino Americano invites you and yours to head on over to the Hotel Arizona for a night of, well, all of the above.

Cocktails start at 7 p.m., which is essential for mingling and getting your feet and courage ready for all that dancing (oh, and there will be a lot of dancing). The music starts at 9:30 p.m., courtesy of Colombian salsa/merengue/bachatas/kitchen-sink musical group Sonora Dinamita, and it doesn't stop until 2 a.m. (that's last call, folks).

Somewhere in the middle of all the fun will be a full sit-down dinner with dessert, party favors, door prizes, a midnight balloon drop and cash bar. This is a fundraiser, so you may want to bring some extra cash. Tickets are $80 a person, or $700 for a table of 10 (which works out to a sizzling $100 discount). So, strap on your dancing shoes, your drinking hat and your charity pants for a muy bueno evening.

Kwanzaa Time

Kwanzaa Festival
1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31
Tucson Children's Museum
200 S. Sixth Ave.

The end of the year has more going on than just the changing of '05 to '06 on all your calendars and reports; it's also the tail end of the world's best-named holiday: Kwanzaa. The Tucson Children's Museum knows this and aims to teach kids about the holiday with its Kwanzaa festival. According to the press release, this means "interactive musical performances, Kwanzaa storytelling and craft activities to commemorate this African-American and Pan-African holiday." Plus, it's a great excuse to hear and say the word "Kwanzaa" excessively.

However, like all holidays and traditions, Kwanzaa has a history and--again, like most holidays and traditions--most people know little about it. Thankfully, our handy-dandy press release tells us: "Kwanzaa was conceived and developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga as a spiritual, festive and joyous celebration of the 'oneness and goodness of life.'" The seven-day celebration is focused on seven principles (one a day) with a "particular emphasis on the unity of African-American families."

This event is part of the Tucson Children's Museum's Festivals of Light and will include an interactive Kwanzaa presentation with Khadijah Smith-Osorio, a musical performance by the Dambe Project and storytelling with Mary Okoye. In other words, it could be titled "Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Kwanzaa (But Were Too Afraid to Ask)." Admission is $3.50 for children (ages 2-16), $5.50 for adults and $4.50 for seniors.

Looking for a Mellow New Year's Eve?

New Year's Eve at The Westward Look Resort
5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 31
Westward Look Resort
245 E. Ina Road

Does all this New Year's Eve wildness turn you off? Looking for something with a bit less alcohol and blaring music? Something, say, slower-paced? Well, the Westward Look Resort understands, and that's why this year, it's offering a peaceful alternative to frenzied New Year's Eve events.

First up, there's dinner in the Gold Room (which is the identical name of the room in which Jack Nicholson cavorts with ghosts, ghouls and wacky butlers in The Shining; no other relation, of course) at either 5:30 p.m. (the three-course dinner is $55 per person) or 7 and 9 p.m. (the four-course dinner is $79 a person). While I'll spare you all the items being served in these meals--suffice it to say, they sound delicious--both dinners include a champagne toast, a choice of soup or salad, an entrée and something called the chocolate symphony for dessert (don't quote me, but I have a strong feeling there's lots o' chocolate in that bad boy).

But, hey, just because you want a mellower New Year's Eve doesn't mean you don't like to get down, and the Santa Catalina Ballroom has you covered. Starting at 7 p.m. and going until 10 p.m., keyboardist Mark Bishop will perform "music across the decades," the press release notes. After Bishop's trot through the generations, there will be a DJ playing recorded music until 1 a.m. Admission is $40 a person, which includes tickets for two well drinks, dancing, party favors and a midnight champagne toast. (Appetizers will also be available for purchase, in case you work up an appetite dancing and drinking.)

Lastly, as the press release accurately notes, "Why risk driving on this night of nights?" Appropriately--it is a resort--the Westward Look is offering partygoers rooms starting at $149 a night. For a fun and laidback evening, Westward Look's got your back.

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