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Cheap Thrills 

= FREE!

4TH SATURDAYS UPTOWN Billed as "A Cultural Exchange & Global Marketplace," this free event boasts something for everyone. Shopping for the shopaholics, entertainment for the perpetually bored, food for everybody and peace for the single moms in the form of a children's village (hallelujah!). It's ongoing, on the fourth Saturday of every month from 10am-5pm at Actor's Theatre, 650 E. Stonewall St. Call 704-342-2251 for details.

SUMMER RETRO FILM SERIES Check out film classics all summer long at the Ballantyne Village Theatre, 14815 John J. Delaney Dr. Get the complete schedule at www.ballantynevillage.com and order tickets online or by calling 704-369-5101. June 30-July 2: True Romance. June 9-August 6, Friday-Saturday, 10pm and midnight; Sunday, 1pm. $5.

BARNES & NOBLE SUMMER GAME NIGHTS It's always a stretch to suggest spending quality time with the family. However, it's also very apparent that a lack of togetherness has led to the downfall of modern society. No for real -- try to remember the last time you spent some nonenforced time with your mom, dad, brother or sister. Kinda hard, isn't it? That's why Barnes & Noble has come up with a plan. Bring 'em round with games to spur communication and bonding. (Family Ties isn't just a TV show starring Michael J. Fox; it's a movement.) One Tuesday night a month until September, at the 3327 Pineville Matthews Road location. It's free therapy for you and the dysfunctionals you call family.

FROM BUSBY TO BOLLYWOOD: CLASSIC MUSICALS The Main Library's Summer Film Series will present its latest season at its new viewing venue in ImaginOn's Wachovia Theatre. Films throughout the summer will be shown at 2pm Sundays; upcoming titles include On the Town, Oklahoma! and Hair. Admission is free. For further info, call 704-336-6217 or go to http://www.plcmc.org.

LEARN TO MEDITATE Take it from loyal practitioners of meditation: There's nothing like it to take the stress of your workday off your shoulders. That's why the Pain & Rehab Institute is offering a free class in the breathing techniques and imagery used in ancient qi gong meditation (betcha didn't know there was more than one kind). The office is located at 128 E. Plaza Drive in Mooresville. Classes are Thursdays at 7:30pm. Call 704-649-1629 to get started on the path to serenity.

CHARLOTTE COMEDY THEATRE Have ya been moping around, feeling a little blue? Then here's the thing for you! Check out Sunday's Open Mic Jam, a combo of comedy, spoken word, music, you name it. Show at 7pm; $3. The location is 1308 D the Plaza. Call for reservations 1-866-467-7681. Web: www.charlottecomedy.com.

RED, WHITE AND BOOM! With the recent move of the WBT SkyShow to Knights Stadium, Charlotte needed a replacement or the Fourth of July would be ruined forever. Don't worry, folks. Clear Channel along with Scott Clark Toyota have saved the day. Fireworks will again brighten the uptown sky as viewers watch from wherever they choose or from four "official" viewing areas: Memorial Stadium Family Celebration, the Blake Hotel Parking Deck roof, Best Western Hotel Parking Deck and Dilworth Neighborhood Grill. The show begins at 9:30pm with this year's 20-minute display staged to a music track played on all five Clear Channel stations (WLYT-102.9, WKKT-96.9, WRFX-99.7, WIBT-96.1 and WEND-106.5).

SALSA NIGHTS Be Shakira for a night and prove that your "Hips Don't Lie" at the free Latin-style dance lessons offered at the Loft, 1526 Elizabeth Ave. Learn salsa, merengue, bachata and more. Touting "celebrity instructors," this joint gets hips swiveling every Wednesday night at 8pm. Hit www.hispanos-usa.com or call 704-333-5898.

SPORTS CONNECTION The ultimate cheap thrill is, of course, sports! Among the conventional sports offered at this complex are unconventional (and cheap) games like laser tag and skating. For $5, future Tony Hawks can skate all day -- and Star Wars fans can play laser tag. Go online www.SportsConnectionNC.com or call 704-583-1444.

SUMMER SHOOTOUT SERIES Here's something to do this summer the kids will love. Kids: imagine, if you will, watching a school bus, that big yellow monstrosity that takes you to the worst place on earth, hurtling towards another one on a one-way collision course. Sounds good, huh? The rundown: 10 races over nine weeks (June 16-Aug. 8) with a fireworks doubleheader, character-themed race cars called CRASHcars, Legends Car, Thunder Roadster and Bandolero racing. Grab the kids and race to Lowe's Motor Speedway. Hit 'em up at 1-800-455-3267 or www.lowesmotorspeedway.com. $5 adults/$3 children (ages 6-12).

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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