Ricky Martin, Kronos Quartet in big weekend at Reno's arts festival

RENO - Opera, blues, jazz and a world famous string quartet will help set the mood for the barbecue ribs and Basque omelets at Reno's fifth annual arts festival this weekend.

Latin pop star Ricky Martin, comedic accordion player ''Weird'' Al Yankovic and Phantom of the Opera star Davis Gaines are among the popular headliners.

The San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet - which has performed all over the world and 49 U.S. states - will make its Nevada debut on Sunday.

Those events all cost money, but they are the exception.

The free entertainment includes a weekend-long, block party-style blues festival amongst the casinos in downtown Reno and a celebration of Basque heritage a few blocks away in a city park on an island in the middle of the Truckee River.

There's a free performance of the rock n' roll space odyssey ''Return to the Forbidden Planet'' Saturday and Sunday evening at the same Wingfield Park and a jazz pool party at the Sands Regency Casino Hotel at 6 p.m. Sunday.

The July-long ''Artown'' festival was launched five years ago as a way to celebrate the arts and culture, and lure tourists to the Biggest Little City in the World with something other than slot machines and black jack.

''Last year when we won an arts award, people said, 'Reno and culture?''' said Karen Craig, Artown's executive director.

''It's our biggest weekend. There is world-class entertainment all over town,'' she said.

The Kronos Quartet has become one of the most prolific string quartets in music since it was established in 1973, Craig said.

''The Kronos Quartet has performed all over the world and in every state except one - Nevada,'' she said.

''They were the one I went after first. We must have booked them two years ago. And now they are going to be the quiet ones in the middle of this musical storm,'' she said.

Mayor Jeff Griffin has declared Sunday Ricky Martin Day in Reno. His performance on the University of Nevada campus will cap off a Latin jazz and salsa music celebration with food from Mexico, Puerto Rico and El Salvador in front of the Club Cal-Neva on Virginia Street south of the Reno arch.

A few blocks away, the El Dorado Hotel & Casino is hosting its fifth annual BBQ, Brews and Blues festival Saturday and Sunday with food stands and representatives of a dozen regional microbreweries.

The Basque festival, a tribute to the immigrant sheepherders who settled in Nevada from the mountains of France and Spain, includes music, dances troupes and a parade.

The Basque cook-off will feature special sausages and the traditional omelets served on french bread. Dancers are coming from Winnemucca, Elko, San Francisco and Salt Lake City.


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