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Art festival and an air show on down the coast Rockport Beach no longer has the top-hatted redfish as its mascot, but it's still the toast of the coast. As always, the art festival and air show make the little bayside town, for one weekend, more than just a place to fish. Those who can stand a long drive can have a full, old-fashioned Fourth of July weekend on the bay. The art show opens today. Over the weekend, the Fulton Mansion, all dressed up as it was in the 1870s, is open for tours from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The Rockport Chamber of Commerce offers a self-guided walking tour of downtown. I can't imagine that this involves any more than picking up a brochure explaining what all the buildings along Austin Street were before they became shell shops. You might find out, though, where the big fish was on exhibition at. For most of the last two decades, on the final big building on the water side of Austin Street part of a sign was visible: "See the Big Fish on Exhibition at...." Where the big fish was had been bricked over. Every little town has its mysteries.

But if that mystery remains, at the air show Monday everything will be explained. Color commentators Jory Pacht and Larry "DuWat" Cissna will explain, over a beach-wide PA, exactly what all 24 of the pilots are attempting, and offer some background on their planes. The show begins at 2 p.m., when skydivers hit the skies, and then the beach, with a giant American flag. Next, Kirk Fulton does aerobatics in his Russian Sukhol Su-26; later, "Bubba" Vidrine turns his Extra every which way but loose. To find all this excitement take 59 south, even until it becomes 77, and then cut over to Hwy 35 when you're ready or before you pass 239. For more information call the Rockport Fulton Chamber of Commerce at (800) 242-0071.

july 3
A Man for All Reasons And what might those reasons be? Choreographer/ dancer/actor Farrell Dyde lets us know in his new "total theater" piece subtitled "Playing for Keeps." Dyde has created -- and you probably don't know this if you've just seen him biking around Montrose -- nearly 100 original works in the dance and performance arts. He's also a dad and therefore completely qualified to examine the most important male role. Dyde's new performance tackles the Iron John issues with poetry, dance and "stories from life." Sundays only, thru July 31. 8 p.m. Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Blvd., 524-6706. $10.

Rockets Red Glare on the Gulf All the historic homes in Galveston will be decked with red, white and blue bunting, paddlewheel boat cruises will be cruising and the weekend, although not the celebrations of the glorious Fourth, will end with a fireworks display. Sort of a preview of the show on the actual holiday. The lights and sounds, and maybe the festive smell of gunpowder and burning paper, will be enjoyed along the Seawall west of 25th and from most of the hotels along the water. The fun on the island is from light on Saturday till late in the evening Monday. Today's fireworks show begins at 9:15 p.m. The Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau can answer any questions, (800) 351-4236.

july 4
Freedom Festival The Budweiser Clydesdales aren't scheduled to be part of the party, but then the invitation says "no pets." Everyone else, it appears, will be on the banks of Buffalo Bayou for this 12 hours of patriotism. Miss Francis and the Rhythm Fish, Cheap Trick and REO Speedwagon will be onstage. Cooked food and beer will be on sale, so please, don't bring alcohol or grills... or fireworks or glass. And just in case you don't know how to play safe for you and me, the Parks and Recreation Department also reminds you not to bring weapons. Just show up with your happy family and enjoy the entertainment. The day ends with fireworks. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sam Houston Park, on along up the Bayou. Call 961-2992 for details. Plan to pay for parking downtown.

Ants in Your Pants Not likely. The Easter Seals picnic is bereft of heat, humidity and insects. They have, however, got all the Sousa you can dance to. The Easter Seals people have wisely decided to celebrate Independence Day indoors. (Pop quiz! What are we celebrating? The adoption of the Declaration of Independence? The third Continental Congress? The existence of the Union, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world?) One might, of course, stay indoors in one's home reading Democracy in America, but one can read any old time. Tonight, the fine folks of the Easter Seals Society of the Gulf Coast host a party with favors, and buffet, in the Sheraton Astrodome. From the mini-dome/penthouse level, celebrants will have an explosive view of the pyrotechnics over at AstroWorld, and in air-conditioned comfort. 7:30-10:30 p.m. For reservations and information call 957-2195. $20 per person, cash bar.

july 5
The House that Kids Build This new hands-on exhibit and an exhibition, "Tiny Treasures: A (Very) Small Art Show," open today at the Children's Museum. Kids "play house" using a computer and a full-size "house" viewed from above. As architects and decorators, children put in walls (and doors). There's a dress-up station so they may be properly attired. "Tiny Treasures" includes small (under 11 by 17 inches) pieces created in workshops at the museum. (Such workshops continue throughout the season as an outlet for kids inspired by "Tiny Treasures.") There's also a Spotlight performance today. Mick Corley does magic and mime and makes like a clown. 2 p.m., free with museum admission. Regular hours 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The Children's Museum, 1500 Binz, 522- 1138. $5, $4 seniors, free for children under 2.

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