South Florida racing aficionados know: Life is the pits. At least it is during stock car racing season, when the mean machines burn up the track at Hialeah Speedway (3300 Okeechobee Rd.). Not quite as famous as that other Florida race course -- the Daytona International Speedway -- Hialeah has been offering thrills for almost 50 years. And who knows better than South Floridians the skill and steely nerve required to navigate through a pack of cars when every driver is gunning the accelerator, maneuvering for position, and trying to take control of the road?
But enough about driving on South Dixie Highway. Stock car racing's origins run much deeper, to the real Dixie and the days of Prohibition. That's when good ol' boys, trying to get away with a little more than the law allowed, would transport homemade hooch in souped-up sedans designed to leave police cars in the dust. Eventually these dirt-road demons began racing to see who had the hottest wheels. Watching these matches became a popular pastime and, in the late 1940s, NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) was born. Since then the sport has yielded such stars as Florida's Glenn "Fireball" Roberts (NASCAR's first celebrity in the 1950s), Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jeff Gordon (yes, the cute one). And, of course, there's Jim Croce's fictional "Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)," who "did 130 miles an hour/Smiling at the camera/With a toothpick in his mouth."
The racers at Hialeah may not be able to pull off that little trick, but they will give you a good show, and a hell of a run for your money. Catch 'em, if you can.
Races continue every Saturday through December. Gates open at 5:30 p.m.; racing begins at 7:00 p.m. Admission ranges from $5 to $10. Call 305-821-6644. -- Gaspar Gonzalez
If you chose a real career during college, fiber artist and master gardener Benjia Morgenstern offers you yet another crack at basket weaving 101. Yes, basket weaving. In fact Morgenstern promises calm and therapeutic sessions in which students make rustic-looking creations for the holidays or everyday use from items found in your back yard. The classes include a nature walk to select basket-making materials. Bring lunch. You may regret your career choice. The class starts at 10:00 a.m. at the Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park, 1725 NE 135th St., North Miami. Registration costs $35 nonresidents and $20 residents. Call 305-893-6511. -- Juan Carlos Rodriguez
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When Astrud Gilberto sang, "There are oh, so many stars, so many stars," she wasn't talking about the Oscars. She was pondering outer space and her place in the universe. Though dizzying, astronomy is also romantic. The twinkling lights in the nocturnal sky often evoke natural urges. Thus the FIU physics department might be throwing the hottest social affair in town with its annual Summer Star Party. Telescopes and scientists may be there, but remember, a first-rate flirtation may transport you to another planet. Liftoff is at 8:00 p.m. outside CP145, FIU University Park Campus, SW 8th Street and 107th Avenue. Call 305-348-2605. -- Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Fun Times Three You're not seeing triple: A trio of events featuring arts, crafts, entertainment, and food will fill one rather large outdoor space in Coral Gables this weekend when Art in the Tropics, the Merrick Festival, and Taste the Gables are held simultaneously at Merrick Park (Le Jeune Road and Biltmore Way). From 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday and 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, visual artists will display and sell their work; musicians of all genres (such as Mantra, right), theater troupes, dance companies, and street performers (or buskers) will strut their stuff; and local restaurants will offer samples of their fabulous cuisine. Admission is free. Call 305-448-2021. -- Nina Korman