14 Best Bets 

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Sept. 29-30

Get your fill of spaghetti at the third annual Richmond Italian Street Festival. Delight your taste buds with an array of Italian food vendors, cooking demos and wine tasting, and sharpen your hand-eye coordination with a pizza toss competition. Entertainment features Ron Moody and the Centaurs, Jonathan Austin and more. A children's area will keep the kids happy. A $2 donation is requested.

11 a.m.-8 p.m. at East Franklin and 22nd streets. Call 897-3916 or visit www.richmonditalianfestival.com.

Oct. 11

Come laugh, kvetch and eat with the author of the "The Portable Jewish Mother: Guilt, Food & When Are You Giving Me Grandchildren?" Laurie Rozakis, professor of English and humanities at Farmingdale State University in New York, will be at the Weinstein JCC for a reading, live and in your face, at 7 p.m. A dessert reception follows. Tickets are $15, or $20 with a signed book and can be purchased at the Weinstein JCC front desk. R.S.V.P. by Oct. 2. Call 545-8611.

Oct. 20

The rock stars of Virginia literature shine at the Library of Virginia's Tenth Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards Celebration, hosted by the South's own literary diva, Lee Smith (below). Three finalists in the categories of fiction, nonfiction and poetry are competing for a $3,000 cash prize and a crystal replica of a book. Winners of the James River Writers' People's Choice Awards will also be announced. 7-9:30 p.m. Tickets are $75. Call 692-3900.

Oct. 20-21

Rise above the mundane -- literally! Here's our fall out-of-town pick: a two-hour drive through beautiful hills and elegant foliage for the Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon and Wine Festival. Feast with 20 food vendors,

enjoy the crafts of 125 artisans, dance to live bands and put your children on the hayrides and carousels. 7 a.m.-5 p.m. $10 per person. Wine-tasting is an additional $5. For a ride in a hot-air balloon, you must make advance arrangements with the pilot. Visit www.historiclongbranch.com or call (888) 558-5567.

Oct. 28

For an evening of deep color and hot spice, treat yourself and a girlfriend to an evening of "Ballet Folklorico de Mexico" at Richmond's Landmark Theater. Founded in Mexico City in 1952, the Ballet Folklorico has reflected many regions and genres of Mexican dance and music over the past five decades. Don't miss the rich and dramatic action as Mexican dancers weave together modern, classical and folk dancing. Presented by the University of Richmond. 7 p.m. Tickets, $22-$32, can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 262-8100.

Nov. 2-3

Don't end up at Wal-Mart at midnight on Christmas Eve. Take advantage of a great opportunity to sidestep holiday madness and get a jumpstart on your gift shopping at the Museum Stores of Richmond's Annual Holiday Shoppers Fair. Peruse wares offered by Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, the Virginia Historical Society, Agecroft Hall, the Children's Museum, the Beth Ahabah Museum and a dozen others. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center.

Nov. 10

You'll probably get a kick out of watching someone else wear an evening gown made of paper clips and bubble-gum wrappers, even if that's not your thing personally. "Wearable

Art X" is guaranteed to offer a truly outrageous variety of experimental apparel made by students and professionals. 8 p.m. at La Différence. For tickets and more information, call 643-1708.

Nov. 10 - 11

Is your hectic life in need of ceremony? Do you have a hankering for buffalo stew? Head to Pow-Wow-Richmond. This authentic Native American event features tipi setup, art, crafts and more than 100 Native American dancers. Foods include buffalo stew, tacos and more. Tickets are $6; $5 for children ages 3-11. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. at the Richmond Showplace, 3000 Mechanicsville Turnpike. Call (252) 257-5383.

Fall Benefits

Sept. 28 Pucker up and enjoy a decadent meal at The Jefferson Hotel while breast cancer survivor Geralyn Lucas shares from her humorous book about her battle with cancer, "Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy." This 2nd Survivor Recognition Luncheon, sponsored by The Greater Richmond Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen For the Cure, is a kickoff to October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A breakfast will be held from 8-9:30 a.m.; a luncheon from noon-1:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for breast cancer survivors and $35 for all other guests.

Oct. 5

Treat Fluffy and Spot to a night on the town at the Ninth Annual Richmond SPCA Fur Ball. All proceeds will benefit sick and injured homeless animals at the Robins-Starr Humane Center. Enjoy a cocktail reception, a pet presentation, a dinner in the Grand Ballroom and a live auction. Tickets may be purchased for pets as well! At the Jefferson Hotel, 6 p.m. Visit www.richmondspca.org or call 521-1312.

Get spiffed up and ready to "Dance Under the Stars," the theme for this year's Kugel Ball, the annual black-tie fundraiser benefiting the Science Museum of Virginia. Boogie to music by Big Swing and the Ball Room Blasters. Tickets are $225. At the Science Museum, 6:30 p.m. Or, just hit up the afterparty starting at 10 for $85. Visit www.kugelball.com.

It's a busy night! Kick up your heels with heavy hors d'oeuvres, cocktails and dancing at The Make-a-Wish Foundation Celestial Ball at Dover Hall in Manakin. 7:30 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $250 per couple; $750 per patron couple. Call 217-9474 or visit www.vawish.org.

Nov. 1-3

Inspired by his trip to Ghana, Chris Burnside, former VCU assistant dean of student affairs, has organized "For Africa — A Benefit." Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company, the African American Repertory Theatre, Richmond Ballet's "Minds in Motion" and others will grace the stage. Tickets, $26, are available at the Grace Street Theater box office, 828-2020. All proceeds support Sovereign Global Mission of Ghana. At the Grace Street Theatre, 934 W. Grace St., 7:30 p.m. After each performance, there's a reception and silent auction at the Scott House, 909 W. Franklin St. Visit www.forafricabenefit.org or call 986-5751.

Nov. 4

Nothing says good eats like a competition between 22 chefs, including Chef Michael Hall from The Berkeley Hotel. Support the March of Dimes Chef's Auction at the Sheraton Richmond West Hotel. A silent auction will be followed by a live auction of exquisite food packages. Hosts are Channel 6 "Virginia This Morning" co-hosts Cheryl Miller and Bill Bevins (also of Lite 98). 6-10 p.m. Tickets are $125.

Call 968-4120.



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