FESTIVAL TIME: Cuban black beans and rice,...


FESTIVAL TIME: Cuban black beans and rice, Mexican tamales and Puerto Rican pasteles -- that's part of the long bill of Latin fare for the 18th Showcase of Nations Hispanic Festival today and tomorrow at Hopkins Plaza.

You'll dance the merengue, cumbia and tango, as some of the area's best Hispanic musicians play a mix of Latin-American rhythms from 5 to 9 both evenings. Among the costumed dancers and musical groups -- from countries including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Peru, Spain and Venezuela -- will be Mariachis de las Americas, playing Mexican songs at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Among special events is the Queen of the Hispanic Festival pageant at 1 p.m. Saturday and crowning of the winner at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. A Catholic Mass will be from 11 a.m. to noon Sunday. Handmade crafts will be on sale throughout the fiesta.

Hours are noon to 9 p.m. both days. Hopkins Plaza is south of Baltimore Street between Charles Street and Hopkins Place. Admission is, as they say south of the border, gratis.

FUSION: Like rhythm and blues, funk and rock? You'll hear a touch of 'em all in the music of the featured act at the next La Provence Thursday Night Concert Series performance on Aug. 13.

Tim Eyermann & East Coast Offering gives a free performance in Hopkins Plaza. This Virginia fusion and contemporary jazz group was formed in 1974. Leader Tim Eyermann is a saxophonist who worked with Frank Sinatra, Anita Baker, Count Basie and Julie Andrews. They play original tunes, as well as others' works.

The Larry Jeter Quintet begins the evening at 7. Hopkins Plaza is between Baltimore and Charles Streets and Hopkins Place.

FISH STUFF: Today's the National Aquarium's 11th birthday, and an array of free activities for children are planned outdoors.

Magician John Ekin performs at 10 a.m. The Kinderman, billed as Baltimore's best children's performance artist, goes on at 11:30. A birthday salute with free cupcakes is at 11:30. From 1 to 2 p.m., Regency, an a cappella group, performs, with Mambo Combo, a Latino-style dance band, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

If you're expecting to get inside for a dollar, as on past aquarium birthdays, this year's Dollar Day is Saturday, Oct. 3.

PLAN AHEAD: Interested in going into business for yourself? You can learn about some of the possibilities next weekend, Aug. 15 and 16, at the Franchise and Business Opportunity Show at the Baltimore Convention Center. More next Saturday.

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