Cheap Thrills ELECTRIC AVENUE: Tucson's biggest streetside ritual gets underway, as merchants, vendors, strollers and wandering souls head downtown for the 28th-annual Fourth Avenue Street Fair.

This is the time-honored chance to drink cold beer, sip hot chocolate, chow down on curly fries, and listen to sounds drifting from the mainstream to the sublime. Musical acts slated for the main stage include Leanne Savage, Greyhound Soul, Katy and Co., and Shri. The Tucson Jazz Society will also be on board, featuring performers ranging from Cass Preston and the Blue Monks to the Lee Gardner Trio, harpist Christine Vivona and a Jazz Jam Session.

The Big and Little Kids street has expanded with the addition of a virtual reality theater, and Sony will present 3,500 square feet of demo computers. That's in addition to a Ferris wheel, an Orbitron obstacle course, and Spaceball.

Then there's the surreal smorgasbord of sights, from tap-dancing tots to top-hatted jugglers, and tons of gifts you're not likely to find at any shopping mall this side of Neverland. Some 400 vendors are slated for this year's gathering, in what now ranks among the most-anticipated community festivals in the nation.

Free event runs from 10 a.m. to sunset Friday through Sunday, December 12 through 14, on Fourth Avenue between Congress Street and University Boulevard. For details, call 933-2477.

ROCK ART: Sharon Urban, of the Arizona State Museum, has spent more than 20 years studying Southwestern rock art. Today she'll provide an armchair slice of her studies with a slide presentation titled The Great Mural Paintings of Baja California.

From a ferry crossing of the Gulf of California to deep, palm-choked canyons rich with rock-art caves, Urban details the region's ancient artistic impulses, much of which remain well-hidden from the casual traveler. Prior to the lecture, she'll offer a tour of Hohokam art surrounding Tucson.

Free lecture is 7:30 p.m. Monday, December 15, in UMC DuVal Auditorium, 1501 N. Campbell Ave. Tour cost is $10, $5 for Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society members. Space is limited. For reservations and other information, call 324-0480.

BALLOON GLO: Big, colorful, bulbous objects will fill the skies when the 13th-annual Holiday Balloon Glo gets underway on the UA Mall, with proceeds benefiting undergraduate student programs.

On Friday, December 12, some 20 balloons--some taller than a five-story building--will dot the mall like a cadre of enormous luminarias starting at 5:30 p.m. and continuing until 8:30 p.m. Pilots and crews will be on hand to answer questions while they periodically fire up their charges. There will also be a jumping castle for kids, food booths and refreshments, and a western theme will be provided by KIIM-FM.

At 7 a.m. on Saturday, December 13, the high-flying contingent will be untethered to spread across the valley in a splash of color.

All events are free, and attendees are invited to wear western costumes. For details, call 621-7576. TW

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