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Friday 23

It's a heady weekend for sports fans. The National Sports Collectors Convention at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, boasts more than 1,000 exhibitors from all sorts of sports-related concerns, free autographs from the likes of Gale Sayers and Walter Payton, paid ones from Tom Seaver, Johnny Bench, and Mike Singletary, and more. It's open 10 to 6 today and tomorrow, 10 to 5 Sunday; admission is $8.50 a day, $21 for a three-day pass. An auction, free with admission, starts at 6 PM Saturday. Call 644-6610.

Tonight is the second (and last) night of the enormous Windy City Sports Auction at the Knickerbocker Hotel, 163 E. Walton. Nearly 600 lots, some of them at extremely high prices, remain. An almost-complete 1952 Topps baseball set has an estimated value of between $60,000 and $80,000; for an extra ten grand you can also have the one missing card, of Mickey Mantle as a rookie. The auction starts at 7; admission is free. If you're planning to buy, keep in mind that no credit cards will be accepted. (If you pay by check, the item will be held till it clears.) Details at 751-8100.

Saturday 24

The Great Chicago to Milwaukee Bike Ride, which raises money for Thresholds, the psychiatric rehab center in Lincoln Park, is actually two bike rides: one 100 miles in length, the other 35. The first begins at the Glenview Train Station, 1116 Depot in Glenview, at 7:30 this morning (check- in starts at 6:30). But if that's too far for you, you can watch the beginning of the race, hang out for breakfast, check in at 10, and then catch the 10:53 Amtrak to Sturtevant, Wisconsin, 35 miles from the ride's terminus at Lake Park in Milwaukee, and pedal from there. Postrace activites in Milwaukee include the city's Great Downer Avenue Bike Race and GermanFest. The entry fee is $25, plus at least $75 in pledges; train transportation (return trains run both Saturday night and Sunday morning) is another $10- $15. You can register the day of the race, but call in advance if you can: 800-637-3135.

Among the more than 50 storytellers convening for the tenth annual Illinois Storytelling Festival are Evanstonian Syd Lieberman, whose material is diaries and journals of World War I aviators from the Smithsonian's holdings; Patrick Ryan, a Springfield native now living in London who tells tales from the British Isles; and John White, who tells Native American stories. There'll also be an "open tent" set up for anybody with a story to tell. The proceedings run from 10 to 5 today and noon to 5 tomorrow at Village Park, Main and Blivin streets in Spring Grove, which is on Route 12 four miles north of Fox Lake. Tonight from 5:30 to 8 there's square dancing, followed by ghost stories till midnight. Admission is $10 a day (an additional ten for tonight's events), $7 for seniors, free for kids under 12. Call 815-678-4773.

Sunday 25

Albertina Walker and Keith Pringle kick off a weekly gospel hoedown called A Salute to Chicago Gospel today at the New Regal Theater, 1645 E. 79th St. The show also includes the Voices of Joy from the Christ the King Lutheran Church. It starts at 3. Next week's version, same time and place, will feature Ricky Dillard and the New Generation Chorale, along with Cree With Love and the Inspirational Choir from the Harvey Memorial Community Church. Tix are $17-$20. Call 363-4321 for more.

Midway Studios--the home of and catchall name for the University of Chicago's graduate and undergraduate art programs--is busy mounting its tenth show of work by MFA graduates. MFA 1993 runs through August 21 at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5307 S. Hyde Park, and features work in a variety of media by Heather Accurso, Christine Basick, Christine Boos, Carl Gilmore, Jennifer Krauss, Nina Levy, James McManus, Kristine Veenstra, and Mark Westervelt. Today's opening reception runs from 4 to 6. The center's open Tuesday through Saturday 11 to 5; admission is free. Call 324-5520 for more.

Mosaic is San Francisco poet Mike Stanton's epic meditation on life, death, and poetry; he performs it in Chicago tonight as part of the weekly poetry slam at the Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway (878-5552). Things get under way at 7; admission is $4. Stanton also appears Tuesday at Estelle's, 2013 W. North (486-8760). Readings there start around 9; there's no cover.

Monday 26

Sports Nutrition is the name of Columbus-Cabrini Medical Center's free program tonight on how athletes should eat. A registered dietitian will talk about proteins, carbs, fats, and fluids from 6:30 to 8 at the Park West Medical Center, 830 W. Diversey. It's free, but reservations are required; 883-7920.

Just about every social phenomenon sooner or later is taken on by the theater. So it was only a matter of time before School Board Shuffle, a musical revue of the trials and tribulations of managing schools. The work came out of the Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, Tennessee; you can see the Chicago version as it closes down a short run at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont, tonight at 7:30. The show's a presentation of the New Tuners Theatre; tix are $5. Call 327-5252 for more.

Tuesday 27

Nepantla: Essay From the Land of the Middle is poet Pat Mora's new book; the title, she notes, comes from a Mexican Indian word for "in the middle"--which Mora sees as an apt description of her own status as a Hispanic in America. She'll read from the book tonight at 7:15 at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark. It's free. Call 769-9299 for details.

Wednesday 28

Like many others before and after him, the French novelist Stendhal viewed the future of his native land pessimistically: "All shades of difference are fast vanishing now in France. In fifty years' time there will be no Provencals left, and no Provencal language." Both predictions proved untrue, argues Tish Robinson in a lecture today at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. In Beyond Paris: A Potpourri of French Provinces, presented by the Savvy Traveller bookstore, Robinson argues that the real France still exists outside Paris. The free program starts at 5:30 in the center's theater. Call 263-2100 for more.

Saltimbanco is an Italian word for 16th-century street performers. It's also the name of the new show from Cirque du Soleil, the acclaimed Quebecois neo-circus that takes the traditional trappings--clowns, acrobats, jugglers--embellishes them with exquisite costumes, lighting, and props, and turns the whole thing into a quest for awe and beauty. The cast for Saltimbanco includes the trapeze team of Karyne and Sarah Steben, who catch each other with their ankles instead of their hands; a two-man body-sculpture team; and an elaborate ballet and bungee-jumping act that includes performers from China, Russia, and Quebec. The show is performed under a big top erected at Cityfront Center, McClurg Court and Illinois Street. Opening night is tonight at 7; after that the show runs Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays at 6 and 9:30, Saturdays at 4:30 and 8:30, and Sundays at 1 and 5. Tickets are $12.50-$35.50, $6-$23.50 for kids. Call 755-1255 for more.

Thursday 29

A few of the city's major country and western boosters--including radio station US99, the Whiskey River nightclub, and Alcala's Western Wear--are teaming up with the Park District to throw a concert and dance in Daley Bicentennial Plaza, 337 E. Randolph, tonight. There'll be music from Big John Howell and the Born to Boogie Band, two-step and line-dance lessons from Whiskey River, and prizes from Alcala's. Food is available at 6; everything else goes from 6:30 to 10:30. There's no admission charge. Call 294-2320 for more.

Two instructors from the Baldwin piano company will perform their new modern classical compositions this evening at the Baldwin showroom on the main floor of the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker. Anthony Ranieri studied at the Chicago Conservatory and the American Conservatory of Music, among other places, and has performed for 35 years; Olivia Coleman teaches at Baldwin and the Hyde Park Cultural Center. Their recital starts at 6:30; it's free, but call 443-0777 for reservations.

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