Smelly wild animals. A sweltering night. The only thing that may cool you off and get you to relax are the strains of a little jazz harp (and we don't mean the harmonica). Okay, the words jazz harpist sound a bit contradictory, but Roberto Perera seems to have gotten the instrument and the genre down pat. Perera, a native of Uruguay who plays the Paraguayan harp (don't ask), has enjoyed a bevy of international hits and has played alongside stars such as Gloria Estefan. He and his six-piece band will soothe the savage beasts in and out of the cages tonight at 7:30 when they perform at Miami Metrozoo, 12400 SW 152nd St. (The zoo hopes this becomes the first of many evening concerts. Geez, is this what the live local-music scene in this town has come down to -- playing the zoo circuit?) Tickets cost $15 and include refreshments. Call 305-255-5551.
Virginia Key Beach, much-discussed recently as a potential site of development or the home of a civil rights park, is the location for Splashdown '99, an all-day event featuring entertainers and the ubiquitous festival food. Local R&B group Off Glass and R. Kelly's hip-hop singers Public Announcement are the headliners. The fun begins at 8:00 a.m. and goes to 8:00 p.m. Get to the beach by turning left on the last road before you reach the Bear Cut bridge that takes you to Key Biscayne. Admission is $20. Call 305-754-4619.
Get ready to get blown away. It's Fourth of July and rockets will be soaring skyward all over the county. For those at the north end of Miami-Dade: Surfside throws a celebration at the Surfside Community Center (9301 Collins Ave., Surfside; 305-866-3635) starting at noon. Adults and kids can swim, play games, and enjoy music by the Surefire Band and the Danger Drew Band. After dark a fireworks display by the great Zambelli Internationale gets under way. On the mainland the cities of North Miami and North Miami Beach get together for their own festivities at North Miami Athletic Stadium (2155 NE 151st St., North Miami; 305-893-6511, ext. 2228). Gates open at 6:00 and the extravaganza features interactive games and entertainment for kids, performances by the North Miami Community Concert Band, the Mocko Jumbie Stilt Dancers, and the Hip Hop Kidz. There's a twenty-minute fireworks show, also by Zambelli. A little farther south, Bayfront Park (301 Biscayne Blvd.; 358-7550) hosts America's Birthday Bash at 6:00 p.m. Local talent will play Latin, Caribbean, and blues tunes on the all-Miami musical stage, and at 9:00 p.m. the fireworks take off. The city of Key Biscayne puts on a Fourth of July parade along Crandon Boulevard at 11:00 a.m., and later at 9:00 p.m., they do their own fireworks thing at Crandon Park Beach (4000 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne; 305-361-5421). In Coconut Grove from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. the Barnacle State Historic Site presents an Old-Fashioned July 4th Picnic. There won't be any fireworks but they promise kite-making and knot-tying demonstrations, tours of the historic house, music by Grant Livingston, a Roaring Twenties bathing suit parade, and an appearance by actress Jude Parry portraying May Mann Jennings, an outspoken advocate for making the Everglades a national park at the turn of the century. Admission is free to all events, except to Crandon Park Beach, which charges $4.50 per car and the Barnacle, which collects $1.
Take a look at those tobacco-settlement megadollars at work in the exhibition Artful Truth -- Healthy Propaganda Arts Project. South Florida students in the fourth through sixth grades dissected advertisements by those big bad cigarette companies aimed at getting the underage to light up for life. The tykes were horrified to find they were being propagandized up the wazoo, so they decided to do a little message-sending of their own. They created sculptures, videos, paintings -- you name it -- all with antismoking messages. See a selection of the works at Miami Beach's own house o' propaganda, the Wolfsonian-FIU, 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show runs through September 8. Admission is five dollars. Call 305-531-1001.
Classical music and cocoa butter are a natural pairing. We'd like to think that's why the twelve-day music series Beethoven by the Beach was created. Unfortunately the name is deceiving. You won't see musicians sporting their Speedos on the sand. All Beethoven concerts take place indoors safely away from the hot sun at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts (201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale). Lectures will be held at the Broward County Main Library (100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale). All the presentations have cute names such as "Immortal Beloved" or "Ode to Joy." Tonight at 7:30 conductor James Judd leads the orchestra and guest violinist Pierre Amoyal in a program called (get ready) Da Da Da Dum!. They'll play Leonora Overture no. 1, the Violin Concerto, and, of course, Symphony no. 5. Tickets range from $20 to $33, except for the final performance on July 17, when tickets will range from $23 to $36. Admission to lectures is free. Call 305-930-1812.