Home to prehistoric Tequesta Indians, used as U.S. Army headquarters during wars against the Seminole Indians, the southernmost terminus for trade along the east coast of America, and a magnet for urban sprawl and drug-toting ships, the Miami River is also a prime party spot. And while rollin' on the river is not recommended Saturday at José Martí Park, fun can still be had at the Miami RiverDay festival, a celebration of the waterway's storied past and future.
Admission to the event, put together by the Miami River Commission, is gratis although food and artists' wares will be peddled in the park. Throughout the day, environmentalists and historians will guide free riverboat tours that cover about four miles. "Environmental information is part of the festival's focus, along with history," says Miami River Commission assistant managing director Brett Bibeau. "The park will have about twenty environmental booths with information from groups like the Audubon Society." Festival organizers will also provide free water taxis to and from the hallowed Miami Circle, as well as offer expeditions around the sacred site. The circle -- discovered in 1998 and estimated to be at least 2000 years old -- is believed to be a remnant of Tequesta Indian civilization in Miami.
About 40 historical reenactors in full regalia will be on hand to discuss the history of commerce and development along the Miami River. Aina, All That's Left, and Grant Livingston, among others, will perform Latin, rock, and folk music. Families with antsy small children need not worry. The little ones won't have to endure historical and environmental activities: Clowns, face painting, and other entertainment will keep them occupied while Mom and Dad do something worthwhile -- and legal. Miami RiverDay runs from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at José Martí Park, 351 SW 4th St. Admission is free. Call 305-662-8024. -- Forrest Norman
The Barnacle House
Local architect Thorn Grafton talks about the structure he would have built given the chance: "It's just such a distillation of perfect architecture for the real Miami before all of modern technology 'saved us' and allowed us to progress. It's a marvelous climatological house. And it's kind of a special feeling when you walk through it. Both sides of the Barnacle are walling it in. So one tries to put one's blinders on when standing on the back porch. But the whole site, the whole setting: walking through the hammock, getting to the house, the back, and seeing the incredible -- what used to be more of a panorama -- which is now kind of an alley view of the bay, and then that little boathouse ... it's the perfect ecological architecture."
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Before his death in 1997 at age 41, artist Oscar Thomas covered walls in Liberty City with powerful murals featuring the faces of Martin Luther King and other historical black figures, attempting to boost community morale and expose neighborhood residents to art. "We as black folk don't take much time to go to galleries and museums," Thomas once said. "The way to get impact is to use the cities." The third annual "Oscar Thomas Memorial People's Art Exhibition" at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center Gallery (6161 NW 22nd Ave.) through Wednesday, May 21, keeps his message alive. Opening reception: Thursday, April 3, at 7:00 p.m. -- Judy Cantor
You might encounter exotic spaghetti eaters, dance with a "Japanese geisha," and maybe show that some Americans do support diplomacy by breaking bread with an "Arab family" at Vizcaya's Grand Picnic this Sunday. The theme is "Marco Polo Travels the World," and prizes will be awarded to the most creative costumes and spreads representing the people and cultures the adventurous Mr. Polo encountered in foreign lands. The global gathering includes garden tours, music, and desserts and runs from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 3251 S. Miami Ave. Admission is $30 lawn seating; $50 table seating. Call 305-856-4866. -- Judy Cantor