by Susan Hamilton

Each city prides itself on trotting out its "Bite of..." and "Taste of..." summer food fests. And what better way to sample a city's varied cuisine for a nominal price?

Here in Spokane, we like to revel in our five-day food extravaganza -- Pig Out in the Park. Who else has the chutzpah to put a name where our mouths (or stomachs) are?

"There is no pretense with Pig Out," says organizer Bill Burke. "It's all for fun."

Today through Monday, the festival celebrates its 21st year in style at Riverfront Park with lots of food and music. Both the Clock Tower Meadow and the City Hall Stages will be filled with rockin' sounds. And mouth-watering aromas will fill the air of the Gondola Meadow area.

"It's an eclectic combination of 41 different food booths," Burke adds. "From Italian to Mexican and Caribbean to American, all food prices are no higher than $6.50, and admission is free."

So what's on the menu? Spaghetti, fajitas, Philly steak, jambalaya, teriyaki chicken and pot stickers, to name a few. Then there's bratwurst, crepes, barbecued ribs, pizza, gyros and burritos. Oh, my stomach. Got to have a Coney Island to finish it off, and a smoothie to wash it down.

Come back another day and sample some gourmet tastes from two new restaurants at Pig Out. Moxie offers a grilled pork loin sandwich (very apropos) with chipotle barbecue sauce or a blackened salmon Caesar salad. How about tasting Twigs Bistro's satays or calamari and fries with a virgin fruit daiquiri?

Bella Union Bistro returns with new offerings: steak pasta, drunken salmon over Caesar and Island Berry smoothies. Try Pig Out newcomer Taste of India's chicken curry or kheer (rice pudding). If you didn't get a chance to sample New Orleans Cookery's alligator on a stick last year, it's back and it's tasty.

And what Pig Out experience would be complete without a Boehm's frozen banana, Pickle Barrel's elephant ears, Leonardo's Bistro's funnel cake, Rocky Mountain's fudge or Mary Lou's root beer floats?

Three adult beverage gardens are featured at Pig Out. On Saturday and Sunday, the first Clock Tower Microbrew-fest will take place. Eighteen breweries and wineries are participants -- from local favorite Coeur d'Alene Brewery to Alaskan Ales and Big Sky to Northern Lights.

But Pig Out isn't just about food and drink.

"This year, Pig Out features two stages with free, live entertainment," Burke says. "Stick around for the show."

Forty local, regional and national musical groups will perform at the event. The two stages are located at City Hall and the Clock Tower.

Local favorites Sidhe and Tiana Gregg perform at noon and 2 pm on Thursday at the City Hall Stage. At 8 pm Thursday on the same stage, The Groove, a seven-piece reggae band from Seattle, will play. Its combination of reggae, soca and ska produces a dynamic sound that will get people moving. It's a good way to work off some of that yummy food you've been eating, too.

Among the many bands playing Friday, event goers will have two Inland Northwest groups to choose from. At 6 pm, Too Slim and the Taildraggers will give a high-energy, twangin' blues show at the City Hall Stage. And the Trailer Park Girls will wail away at the Clock Tower Stage at the same time.

At 8 pm on the City Hall Stage, the renowned Norton Buffalo and the Knockouts will perform. Buffalo is regarded as one of the most versatile and talented harmonica players in the music business.

On Saturday at 8 pm, the Guarneri Underground brings its funky mix of Afro-Celtic-flamenco "music for the new world" to the City Hall Stage. Its wild sounds are known to get audiences up and dancing.

Meanwhile, at the Clock Tower Stage, it's a blues-and-microbrew fest that's bubbling. Laffin' Bones, Carl Rey and the Blues Gators, the Bone Daddies, Pat Coast and Out of the Blue, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds will croon their soulful blues sounds throughout the afternoon and evening.

Sunday brings Jim Boyd and Rez Bound's Native American folk, Soul Proprietor's R & amp;B and Civilized Animal's original ska, among others, to the City Hall Stage. The Clock Tower and Microbrew fest Stage will spotlight the classic Northwest rock of Jr. Cadillacs, the Sneaks' disco music, Delbert's acoustic funk and Poco's influential country rock.

Monday finishes with Sweet Fancy Moses, the original rock of 50fifty and the Inland Northwest's own rock 'n' rollers, Men in the Making.

Food and sounds. Decisions, decisions. At least you have five days to make them.

Pig Out in the Park is Thursday, Aug. 30, through Monday, Sept. 3, from 10 am-10 pm at the Gondola and Clock Tower Meadows

of Riverfront Park. Call: 625-6600.

American Inheritance: Unpacking World War II @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through May 23
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