Press Picks

Kemah Celebration Last year, this was known as the Festival by the Bay, but the North Galveston Chamber of Commerce has changed the name. They're still celebrating, though -- hence the name -- in the spirit of old-fashioned fun. The event features more than 400 vendors, live music, a carnival, food and opportunities to compete with your fellow neighbor. Daytime and early evening, today and tomorrow. Wal-mart parking lot, 9300 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway, Texas City. For more information, call 337-3434. Free admission.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame Here on the Picks page, we don't identify a do-not-miss event every week because frankly, not every week has a do-not-miss event. But this is one. Take your family, take your friends, take your neighbors and bask in the glory of a shattering work of art: the Universal silent-film version of Victor Hugo's novel. This classic stars Lon Chaney and is as complex and beautiful as grand opera -- all that and the Houston Symphony provides background music. I've got nothing against Tom Hulce, but Disney's Quasimodo has nothing to do with the true meaning of Hunchback. The gates will open at 6:30; screening, 8:30 p.m. Picnics are welcome, so long as no beverages are in the baskets. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, 629-3700. $7, $8.50 and $10.

Sonidos del Sur A festive evening of Mexican and Mexican-American music, the seventh annual Fiesta de la Hispanidad opens the Society for the Performing Arts season. Four brilliant ensembles play conjunto, marimba, son jarocho and banda music under the stars. Presented by the SPA in association with Texas Folklife Resources. 8:30 p.m. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive, Hermann Park, 520-3290. Free.

august 25
Theater District Open House You can sample the arts of major downtown arts organizations all afternoon, but the best reason to show up at the Theater District's open house is to see the Blind Boys of Alabama, one of the most inspired gospel groups in existence. The boys met in a school for the blind in Alabama, found Jesus and have been singing about it ever since. In those 60 years, the group has performed with Morgan Freeman, Little Richard and Jimmy Reed. The other reasons to attend the open house include free performances, puppet shows for the little shavers and complimentary refreshments. Sampling, noon6 p.m.; Blind Boys in concert from 68 p.m. on Fish Plaza outside the Wortham Center. For more information, call 853-8039. Free. Parking all around; some free, some not.

august 26
Italian open house Thinking of learning a language? Why not Italian? The Italian Cultural and Community Center, a lovely house in Montrose, has hosted movies, cooking classes and concerts, and tonight the center holds an open house to woo those who might like to sign up for language lessons. Classes begin September 9; the open house and preregistration run68 p.m. tonight. 1101 Milford, 524-4222.

august 27
Murphy's Law The band's new CD, Dedicated, is decorated with snapshots of jolly members of the New York hard-core scene, and the cover art has lovable claymation figures, a la the California Raisins, stomping and thrashing with glee. All and all, Murphy's Law is a sweet little hard-core band, and, true to its punk roots, performs the occasional honking ska number. H2O and the Supermarket All-Stars are the opening bands. Doors open, 8; Murphy's Law, 11 p.m. Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, 862-3838. $10; all ages.

august 28
Czech gala Sure, Houston's thriving Czech/Slovak community is supported by a variety of organizations, but they need someplace to go, a permanent place. To that end, the Czech Heritage Society of Texas, Sokol of Houston and other groups have secured 501(c)3 nonprofit status for a Czech cultural and community center. The first gala fundraiser is today. The evening begins with cocktails and a live auction, then music, music, music. Cocktails, 67; music, music, music, 7 p.m. and on into the night. Ramada Plaza Hotel, 12801 Northwest Freeway at Pinemont. For more information on the gala, or to make a donation, call Effie and Bill Rosene, 682-4608. $35.

Virtual cruise This isn't some high-tech cyberadventure; this faux boat trip relies on the age-old secrets of good cooking and great menu planning. "Passengers" are urged to dress as if for a Caribbean cruise, and then settle down in the comfort of Maxim's dining room for a first-class food tour. The evening opens with Maxim's legendary hors d'oeuvres, the appetizers and courses to be served with wines from Chile, France and Italy (and don't knock Chilean wines; Chile has some terrific wineries). The five-course banquet begins with gangped soup and concludes with a dessert made with pineapple and pear liqueur. Island-style fish and fowl and good red meat do star turns. 7:30 p.m. Maxim's, 3755 Richmond, 877-8899. $65 per person (tax, tip and wine included). Reservations, and loud shirts, recommended.

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