Filler Cheap Thrills

NORTEÑO A-GO-GO: One melodic immigrant from the borderland treks past the Border Patrol, National Guard and assorted minimum-wage xenophobes, courageously arriving in South Tucson this weekend for the Ninth Annual Norteño Music Festival and Street Fair.

Despite its threat to the American Way of Life--heck, norteño is even sung in Spanish--the music remains among this region's most vibrant legacies. There will be a full dose of it as our mile-square namesake pulls out the skids with food booths, traditional dancers, and Hispanic and Native American artists, all a precursor to Diez y Seis de Septiembre, Mexico's independence day.

Popularized in the '20s by Mexican rancheros, norteño, also known as Tex Mex or conjunto, taps a smorgasbord of instruments, including the 12-string bajo sexto guitar, button accordion, bass and drums to spin often surreal, usually polka-laced and always soulful Latino folk ballads--sort of Lawrence Welk meets Neil Young via Julio Iglesias.

The free celebration runs from 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, at South Fourth Avenue and 36th Street, across from Tucson Greyhound Park. A battle of the bands, with 10 traditional norteño groups, livens the air all day Saturday, while waila (a Tohono O'odham take on the musical tradition) takes center stage on Sunday, followed by a special concert with Hispanic sensation Paolo Romero.

A share of proceeds will help the Pio Decimo Center's children and families programs. Call 622-2801 for information.

LIVES IN WAITING: They languish in the system for years, unwanted and unloved, perhaps nobody's picture of the perfect add-on offspring.

But all most older adoptable children really need is a good chance in a healthy home, and that's where the local Families for Kids group comes in. They're hosting a series of meetings geared toward finding these kids a place to call their own.

Children over age 8, along with those coming from minority backgrounds or abusive early years, pack the waiting lists; and these forums are an opportunity to finally break that logjam.

Tonight's meeting will be at the Quince Douglas Neighborhood Center, 1101 E. Silverlake Road, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Upcoming forums include September 18 at the El Pueblo Neighborhood Center, 101 W. Irvington Road; and October 16 at Randolph Center, 200 S. Alvernon Way. All are free and begin at 6:30 p.m. Call 622-7611, ext. 1332, for information. TW

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