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The best of summer

There's undoubtedly more to come, but we've tried to pick out some of the don't miss-events of the coming summer.

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CONCERTS Eric Clapton slipped through Arkansas once before, playing in Pine Bluff in 1979, but now, a full-fledged legend, he'll play Alltel Arena June 11. The funky Robert Randolph and the Family Band, who became overnight stars with their Grammy Awards performance and an appearance on Saturday Night Live, are the opening act. Tickets are $56.75 and $76.75 (by the way, the lower bowl of Alltel sold out the first weekend tickets went on sale.) Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Call 975-7575. Longtime country favorite Alabama, continuing a "farewell" tour that began last year, has North Little Rock on its itinerary June 26, playing Alltel Arena. The $150 up-close tickets also get the holder a collector's edition lithograph. The rest of us will be paying $49.75 and $35.75. Call Ticketmaster starting May 8, 975-7575 Some of the best local concerts will be in May, with Mary Wilson of the Supremes and The Four Tops joining the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra May 14-15 at Robinson Center Music Hall, and Metallica finally coming to Arkansas with a show at Alltel Arena on May 15, joined by Godsmack. The avant-garde heavy rock band A Perfect Circle will be at Alltel on May 26. Riverfest is always the perfect way to get into the summer concert mood, and this year's three-day festival May 28-30 will feature such big names as Al Green, Hootie and the Blowfish, country star Brad Paisley, classic rocker Eddie Money, and modern rockers Collective Soul, Trout Fishing in America, plus dozens more on five stages. Call 255-3788 for more info; the three-day pass is a mere $6 ($10 at the gate). Construction is planned on various sections of the Riverfest Amphitheatre after Riverfest concludes, including the stage's roof, and the next big rock show at the venue isn't until July 27, when modern rockers Nickelback, 3 Doors Down and Puddle of Mudd play starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 for the lawn and $49.50 for the pit. The Arkansas Symphony will show up on the amphitheater stage July 4 for its Pops on the River performance, complete with fireworks. EVENTS One of the biggest draws in Central Arkansas every year is the Little Rock Air Force Base's annual air show and community celebration. More than 100,000 visitors are expected June 5-6 at the air base in Jacksonville for the show, themed "Heroes of the Heartland" in honor of armed forces fighting oversees. The show both days is 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with gates opening at 8:30 a.m. Modern and vintage aircraft will be on display, both on the ground and in the air. It's all free. Call 987-2273 for more information. Looking for a fun run? Try the Museum of Discovery's Dino Dash 5K and Discovery Fest on June 5. Call 396-7050 for all the sign-up information. There's also a 1K for us less-than-distance runners. THEATER "Dreamgirls," the Broadway hit musical about an African-American female pop act, is the Arkansas Repertory Theatre's summer show, running June 11-July 11 (the Rep's sneak preview and discussion with the director is June 10). All tickets are $35 and available through the Rep, 601 Main St., at 378-0405. Call for available showtimes. June means weddings, and Murry's Dinner Playhouse will get in the matrimonial mood with "Father of the Bride," running May 25-June 27 at the theater on Asher and University Avenues. Murry's moves to "Wally's Cafe" on June 29 for a month-long showing. Prices for both shows vary depending on the day and time; call 562-3131. Local amateur theater shows will include the Community Theatre's "The Dining Room" July 16-18 and July 23-25 at the Arkansas School for the Blind's Wooley Auditorium; the Red Octopus sketch comedy troupe's annual summer fun fest, "Pagans by the Pool," July 26-31 at Vino's Brewpub; the Weekend Theater's "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" starting July 9 for three weekends; and "The Wizard of Oz," performed by Benton's Royal Players at the Jerry Van Dyke Royal Theater July 8-11 and July 15-18. Beat the heat with a ice cream sundae next door at the Jerry Van Dyke Soda Shop. But before the heat actually arrives, get your summer theater-going off to a good start with Celebrity Attractions' production of "Miss Saigon," the biggest show the company has brought to Robinson Center Music Hall. Show dates are May 18-23, with seven performances crammed into that period. Tickets range from $22 to $52. Call 244-8800 or purchase through Ticketmaster (expect a significant ticket surcharge this way) at 975-7575 or via the Internet at www.ticketmaster.com. SPORTS The area's two professional sports teams, the baseball Arkansas Travelers and the indoor football Arkansas Twisters, will be getting in licks all summer. Texas League baseball Home stands for Arkansas Travelers: May 6-13, May 18-25, June 4-11, June 28-July 1, July 10-17, July 22-24, July 27-Aug. 3, Aug. 9-14, Aug. 25-31. Game times are 7:10 p.m. except for 6:30 p.m. Saturday doubleheaders and 2 p.m. Sunday games, all at Ray Winder Field. Tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for students; discounts are available to certain games from various merchants. Call 664-1555. Arena Football 2 Home games for Arkansas Twisters: May 8, May 22, June 12, June 25, July 16, July 31. Game times are 7:05 p.m. at Alltel Arena; tickets range $10-$21. Call 975-5425 (975-KICK) or Ticketmaster at 975-7575.

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