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Nonstop summer spree

The Kimmel Center stages its annual salute to the sizzling season today - 16 solid hours of entertainment. Kudos if you're good for the duration.

Last year Tom Warner, director of programming at the Kimmel Center, wore a pedometer throughout the center's entire Summer Solstice Celebration. Colleagues were impressed to learn that Warner logged 17 miles walking the 3 p.m.-till-dawn extravaganza.

"That impressive number shows how much is going on during the event and how big the space is," said Mervon Mehta, the Kimmel's vice president of programming.

Distance is not the only measure of the Kimmel's Summer Solstice Celebration: This year's seventh annual installment, which begins this afternoon, will highlight more than 40 performers from the region and beyond.

For those seeking Wiccan rituals, however, the Kimmel is not the place to be. At the first celebration, in 2001, organizers did incorporate a Wiccan ceremony reminiscent of what one might find at Stonehenge - but after that inspired hate mail, Mehta said, they decided to drop it.

Now, the event is just pure fun to mark the official start of summer (which actually occurred at 7:59 p.m. yesterday) and welcome an eclectic audience with entertainments ranging from classical music by the resident companies to fashion shows to a Guitar Hero competition. As a general rule, activities are kid-friendly until around midnight, after which they target a more mature audience.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under, for a wristband that allows freedom to come and go.

At 2 p.m., InLiquid's Art for the Cash Poor street fair will close Spruce Street alongside the Kimmel for a bazaar of work by area craftsmen that runs till 7 p.m. At 2:30, all present will be invited to participate in the Yoga Sun Salutation that begins the indoor musical performances at 3 p.m.

Zoo on Wheels will roll its menagerie through the Commonwealth Plaza at 3 p.m. while Baby Loves Disco - the international chain of kid's dance clubs born in Philadelphia - sets up shop at 3:30, encouraging children and their parents to get their groove on.

At 4:30, come listen to soloists from the Opera Company of Philadelphia in Verizon Hall. Or, if you're seeking green, hop up to the Hamilton Garden for demonstrations, including flower arranging, presented by the Philadelphia Horticulture Society.

Enjoy the vibrant 32-ton Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ at 5:15 in Verizon Hall. With 6,938 pipes, this is the largest concert-hall organ in the United States.

The R&B duo AAries takes the stage in Verizon Hall at 7 p.m. If jazz is your thing, catch the Justin Faulkner Trio, performing at the same time in the Perelman Theater with singer Denise King.

Simultaneous yet disparate events like those represent one of the best things about Solstice, says Mehta: Because everything is free once you're inside, you have the opportunity to take a chance on unfamiliar offerings.

If music is not your thing, come watch the Showroom 77 Fashion Show - the work of various Philadelphia designers - on the runway from 8 to 10 p.m. Right after that, the ever-popular Bob and Barbara's Drag Show - one of the few returnees from last year - will be entertaining, or you can challenge your brain at the Quizzo Tournament with Philly staple Johnny Goodtimes in the Innovation Studio.

Around midnight, cheer on contenders, or take the stage yourself, in the Guitar Hero competition, where wannabe rock stars indulge their fantasies in Verizon Hall. Or dance to the beats of DJ Spinderella, former member of the Grammy-winning pop trio Salt-N-Pepa, who says she'll be spinning "old-school hip-hop and music from the '80s," in the Perelman Theater.

Or, for something completely different, head over to the Rendell Room and watch Brat Productions' Madi Distefano in her bad-girl monologue

Popsicle's Departure, 1989


In the early hours of the morning, the scene will coalesce in Commonwealth Plaza, where acts including the West Philadelphia Orchestra and the Hydrogen Jukebox Circus Sideshow will play till first light.

The last event of the evening (or, more accurately, the morning) is the 5 a.m. bring-your-own-drum circle. At this closing ceremony, organizer Mehta says, he likes to poll audience members to see who experienced every minute of the 16-hour celebration.

"I ask everyone who made it through the entire event to stand up and take a bow," Mehta said. "There are generally 25 to 40 people who do."