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SEPTEMBER 29 - WEDNESDAY
Paul Krugman, economist turned pundit for the New York Times and author of the best-selling The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the 21st Century, has become one of the most quoted and respected columnists in America. Krugman will present the Wearn Lecture at Davidson College's Duke Family Performance Hall at 8pm. The lecture is free. For more info, call 704-894-2140. (Grooms)

It's lonely at the top. That's where Renee Fleming resides among American sopranos -- and with good reason. At the high notes others audibly strain to reach, Fleming is in her midrange. The quiet intensity with which she penetrates to the core of her operatic characters beautifully matches the creaminess of her vocal textures. And Fleming also ventures into new frontiers, spearheading the debuts of new work instead of languishing on the sidelines. Charlotte Symphony has her for one gala performance -- Fleming soars in on the wings of Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs, which she has performed before with CSO maestro Christof Perick. A meal in itself, but there are plenty of other delights on the menu. Tickets are $40-$70. Call 704-972-2000. (Tannenbaum)

SEPTEMBER 30 - THURSDAY
Hard-bodied, soft-headed soulster Usher, perhaps the cockiest "musician" in the music world today, will be appearing tonight at 8pm at the Charlotte Coliseum as part of his MTV-sponsored "Truth Tour," in which he will tell those assembled about his deep, dark secrets -- which are neither especially dark nor deep -- and also dance around a lot to his monster pop smash "Yeah!" Tickets for the show are $30 to $55, available at ticketmaster.com or by calling 704-522-6500. (Davis)

OCTOBER 1 - FRIDAY
Vote or Shut the Fuck Up gets right to the point, doesn't it? This multi-media gathering to remind folks how key this election is and how every vote really does count this time out, is hosted by The Steeple. Snagglepuss and Bruce Hazel & Some Volunteers (a loose conglomeration of familiar local musical faces) provide the music. There will also be some spoken word performances and, of course, Rock the Vote folks urging the few remaining procrastinators to suck it up and sign up. With only one week left to register (the final date to do so is Oct. 8), time is running out if you're still thinking about playing the Democracy game. For more information, go to www.thesteeple.com, or call 704-333-5545. (Schacht)

In Donald Margulies' Collected Stories, we watch the development and the unraveling of a relationship between a distinguished Greenwich Village writer and her young student. So is it imparted artistry -- or wicked opportunism -- when the student skyrockets to fame by exploiting the story of the writer's romance with her teacher, legendary poet Delmore Schwartz? This production, tying into the Novello Festival, runs through October 23 at Theatre Charlotte. Theatre a la Mode host Douglas Welton produces and directs this two-character play, which stars Gloria King and Laura Aguirre. Pre-show readings by various presenters (including me, this Sunday) will delve more deeply into Schwartz's life, legend, and poetry. Tickets are $25 for evening performances and $22 for matinees. Call 704-334-9128. (Tannenbaum)

It's the first of October and those fat pumpkins are popping up everywhere. Fall is in the air and that means Halloween isn't too far behind. This year Carowinds again morphs into Scarowinds with several added attractions, including Friday the 13th: Jason's extreme cuts, Sleepy Hollow Horror, Alcatraz Escape and Dracula's Haunted Castle. Things that go bump in the night and emerge from dark, mysterious corners will take over the park during October. Of course all the thrill rides will also be open. Scarowinds returns Oct. 1-31, Friday and Saturday nights, and also on Halloween night Oct. 31, 7pm-midnight. General admission: $32.99; advance e-tickets on the website are $26.99. Discount tickets also at Harris Teeter in the Carolinas and BI-LO in South Carolina. Further details: 704-588-2600 or scarowinds.com (Shukla)

OCTOBER 2 - SATURDAY
Huzzah! The Carolina Renaissance Festival opens this weekend at its usual middle-of-nowhere Huntersville location (16445 Poplar Tent Rd. to be exact). RenFest (everything has an abbreviation these days) offers 20 acres of time-warped merriment with arts & crafts, shopping, exhibitions, comedic performances, jousting tournaments, a petting farm and much, much more. Plus, this is the only place in the region where you can say, "Get me a beer, Wench!" and get away with it. Open every Saturday and Sunday through November 14 from 10am-5:30pm. Tickets start at $15 for adults, $6 for children ages 5-12 at the gate; discounted tickets may be purchased at Harris Teeter. Event details and directions are available at www.royalfaires.com/carolina or by calling 704-896-5544. (Grossman)

One of Charlotte's ongoing cultural treasures, Charlotte Symphony's Lollipops Series, enters a new era as Alan Yamamoto takes over the reins for the season opener. Some old favorites are on hand for Phantoms of the Orchestra as the Magic Circle Mime Company returns to Belk Theater to enchant the kiddies and their parents. Expect visual splendor to match the musical wonders as maestro and his terrified assistant wield the magical power of the baton. Lollipops concerts start at 11am, but no child should miss the pre-concert festival, and the instrumental "petting zoo," beginning at 10am. Series tickets are $27-$60, a prime reason why so few are available. Call 704-972-2000. (Tannenbaum)

The Komen Foundation of Charlotte presents its 8th annual Race for the Cure to fight breast cancer. More than $4.5 million has been raised for breast cancer research and support programs since the first Race was held in 1997. If running a competitive 5K isn't what gets you going, the Sponsor Expo will offer plenty of other pickings for the not-so-athletically inclined, including giveaways, free food and drinks, and kids' events. Events begin at 7:20am today. Visit www.komencharlotte.org for details. (Callahan)

\The remnants of The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, two textbook definitions of Southern rock, are in town to entertain loyal fans along with recent converts. Allmans' jazz-flavored Southern boogie has nudged countless jam bands into existence and still marks their rep as live music stalwarts. Lynyrd Skynyrd's hard rock swagger, laced with country and blues, will likely bring out a sea of rebel flags, hats and plenty else. It's all at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, starting at 6pm. Tickets are $30-$45. For more details, call 704-522-6500 (Shukla)

One of the longer running Charlotte multi-cultural celebrations, the UNC Charlotte International Festival, better known as IFEST, will be held today at the Barnhard Student Activity Center from 10am-6pm. Representatives from nearly 50 countries will be offering food, entertainment and insight into the various cultures flourishing in Charlotte and at UNCC. Traditional favorites like the Parade of Nations combined with newer festival attractions such as the Earth Balloon keep students, families and many others coming back year after year. For further details on this free event, call 704-687-2410 or visit www.uncc.edu/ifest. (Grossman)

The first annual North Carolina Music Festival celebrates the rich musical traditions of the state today with an event at the historic textile mill at 1111 Hawthorne Lane, just east of Central Avenue. A wide range of performers both local and regional join the festivities, including Hobex, Sons of Ralph, Jubal Foster, Country & Western Bill, F-150, Moonshine Racers, Mary Fagan, Laughing Gravy, Lenny Federal, Sawbilly Rooster, Umbilical Brain, Custom Grass Snakes and the Blinds (Todd and Tara Busch). Food, beer and art are also on the menu. Tickets are $15 at the door. For more information on the event, go to http://thenorthcarolinamusicfestival.com/. (Schacht)

OCTOBER 3 - SUNDAY
Viva the Mint Museum of Art, which is hosting the 14th Annual Latin American Festival. Representing all of Latin America and Spain, the festival shares its culture's richness through art, craft, food, dance, and music. Carlos Calderon of Univision will emcee the entertainment, which features Mexican singing star Rafael Negrete, recording artist Stephanie, the Latin jazz band A Sign of the Times, and the Latin rock band La R·a, among many others. Admission to the festival is $5 for adults, $3 for children 9-12, and free for ages 8 and under and for Mint Museum members. The festival, on the lawn of the museum at Randolph Road, runs today from 12noon until 7pm, rain or shine. For mas informacion, call 704-531-3848 or Natasha Rider at the Mint Museum, 704-337-2009. (Vespa)

Rev. Fernando Cardenal, who has led a remarkable life by anyone's standards, will share his story and insights today and tomorrow at Davidson College. Cardenal, a Roman Catholic priest of the Jesuit order, was one of the staunchest adherents of the Liberation Theology movement, which accented religion's responsibility to the poor. He joined the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua, helped overthrow the Somoza regime, and became a government minister, leading the most successful literacy campaign in history. Liberation theology was condemned by the Pope but Cardenal remained with the Sandinistas until he resigned in 1990 in protest of growing corruption. His lectures at Davidson are free and take place at 8pm in the college's Duke Family Performance Hall. For more information, call 704-894-2140. (Grooms)

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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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