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Free, low-cost activities abound across region for warm-weather season

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Even before summer arrives, the calendar can fill with plans. The combination of good weather, no school and longer days gives families and friends more time to get out. But with so much to do, paying admission fees for everything can get pricey. Luckily, event planners are hoping to ease some pressure off your wallet. Major events such as the Greenwood Freedom Festival, the Firecracker Festival and the Johnson County 4-H and Agricultural Fair are already free community favorites. But other activities continue to escape the public consciousness. Here is a look at 20 unique events going on around central Indiana. From music to art to family fun, each has different attributes and focus. But one thing remains the same — not one will cost a penny to get in.

legends at work

What: Music Heritage Festival

When: 7 p.m. July 19

Where: American Legion Mall, 700 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis

Information: www.indianablackexpo.com

As part of the Indiana Black Expo, the legendary O’Jays will headline the annual free concert at the American Legion Mall. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, the group was responsible for such hits as “For The Love Of Money,” “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby” and “Love Train.”

make new friends

What: Georgia Street Block Parties

When: 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays

Where: 250 W. Georgia St., Indianapolis

Information: indydt.org

During Indianapolis’ Super Bowl festivities, the Georgia Street corridor was the center of activity. With these end-of-the-week block parties, it is again.

Live music, appearances by Colts and Pacers cheerleaders, and free games for prizes will be available for anyone looking for a fun way to start the weekend. In addition, eateries such as Harry and Izzy’s and Kilroy’s will have their patios open and serve food and beer.

get your fill

What: Smoke on the Square

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 28 anda 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 29

Where: Downtown Franklin

The smells of burning charcoal, roasting meat and tangy barbecue sauce will hang over downtown Franklin during the annual Smoke on the Square. The barbecue competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, essentially the governing body of cooking done over a smoker.

Professional barbecue teams will cook up their best pork butt, ribs, chicken and other delicacies. While the pros cook, people can watch performances by the Electric Impulse Cloggers and the Blue River Band, take part in some kids’ activities or check out a classic car cruise-in.

pino grigio & pizza

What: Weekends at Mallow Run

When: Saturday, June 15, July 27, Aug. 17 and Sept. 7

Where: Mallow Run Winery, 6964 W. Whiteland Road, Bargersville

Summertime brings the return of one of Mallow Run’s most popular programs. Pizza and Wine Night offers people the chance to pair a glass of traminette with a slice of sausage pizza, or a double-cheese slice with a seyval blanc.

Though the pizza and glasses of wine do cost money to enjoy, Mallow Run offers complementary tastings in its barn to help you decide. And afterward, guests can set up a lawn chair or spread out a blanket while listening to music from Wilson & Co., Tastes Like Chicken and the Richmonds.

play for a day

What: Day of Play

When: 3 to 9 p.m. June 20

Where: Province Park, 393 Branigin Blvd., Franklin

Information: 736-3689, franklin.in.gov

For its investment and commitment to childhood programs encouraging play, Franklin was named a Playful City USA by the Humana Foundation. The nonprofit organization provides grants to promote healthy lifestyles and chose 217 communities throughout the country to be honored this year.

Franklin officials will be recognizing the distinction by setting aside time to get people of all ages moving. Games and activities will be planned throughout the afternoon, and admission to the Franklin Family Aquatic Center will be free from 7 to 9 p.m. A hot-dog dinner will be provided to participants.

favorite pastime

What: Vintage Base Ball Club

When: 1 to 4 p.m. July 13

Where: Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St., Indianapolis

Long before the massive stadiums, multimillion-dollar contracts and 100-mph pitchers, baseball was a simpler game. People played in open fields, didn’t wear gloves and wore baggy pants, high socks and striped hats.

A select group of traditionalists keeps the 1860s version of the game alive throughout the summer. As part of the Indiana State Museum’s Abe Lincoln Celebration, watch two local clubs, the Hoosiers and the Blues, take to the diamond.

sew much fun

What: Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival

When: Noon to 6 p.m. May 31 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 1

Where: Johnson County fairgrounds, Franklin

Infomation: www.hoosierhillsfiberfestival.com, 403-5667

For local knitters, crocheters and other fiber artists, this annual event is a chance to show off their work and pick up hard-to-find supplies. For everyone else, it’s a chance to see the skill that goes into creating with fiber.

Dozens of vendors will sell fiber art supplies, give demonstrations of shearing animals for wool and other materials and compete for the best fiber submissions. Other historic craftspeople will be selling candles, soap, woodwork and pottery, as well.

get scared & laugh

What: Creature Features

When: 6 to 8 p.m. May 30, June 13, 20 and 27; July 11, 18 and 25.

Where: Greenwood Public Library

Information: greenwoodlibrary.us

When they were made, movies such as “The Blob,” “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “It Came from Outer Space” were meant to terrify audiences. But often the cheap special effects, poor acting and unbelievable monsters drew more laughs than screams in the theater.

The Greenwood Public Library will be reviving these golden examples of B-movie bliss during a weekly Creature Feature program. Families are invited to come and watch classics such as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “The Last Starfighter,” or the titanic clash of movie monsters in “King Kong vs. Godzilla.”

learn new things

What: Target Free Family Night

When: 4 to 8 p.m. June 6, July 11 and Aug. 1

Where: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, 3000 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis

Information: childrensmuseum.org

On a normal day, exploring the Children Museum’s collection of dinosaur fossils, science experiments and pop culture exhibits would cost a family of four $64. But for one night each month, the museum opens its doors to families for free.

Get in early (since the events tend to be the museum’s most popular) and take some time to check out the physics of flying in the “Curious Scientific Investigators: Flight Adventures” exhibit. Learn about pirate treasure and hidden tombs in “Treasures of the Earth,” and travel to Egypt to learn about the Middle Eastern country’s culture.

land a keeper

What: Kids Fishing Derby

When: 8 a.m. to noon June 1

Where: Eagle Creek Park & Marina, 7840 W. 56th St., Indianapolis

Information: www.eaglecreekpark.org

Few things say “summer memories” than tossing a line into a lake, watching the bobber go under and pulling out a flopping fish. The Eagle Creek Park Foundation invites children ages 4 to 14 for a free day to do just that.

Kids can fish license-free, then take advantage of a cookout, goody bags and an appearance by the Pacers Fan Van. People are encouraged to bring their own fishing equipment, but a limited number of rods and reels will be available. Space is limited, so register by May 30.

step back in time

What: Tales of the Underground Railroad

When: 2 p.m. June 15

Where: Johnson County Museum of History, 135 N. Main St., Franklin

Information: johnsoncountymuseum.org, 346-4500

In the time before the Civil War, Indiana was a central stop for escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad. Stories of the bravery of those slaves, and the people who operated the protective route, will come to life through the performance of Charlotte Battin.

She will portray a Quaker woman who acted as a “conductor” to safely move slaves to freedom. The Columbus-based actress will discuss daring tales of escape and friendships forged during the experience of the Underground Railroad.

take flight

What: Indianapolis RC South Annual Spring Electric Fly In

When: June 22

Where: Rike Field, 3200 E. County Road 750N, Greenwood

Planes of all shapes and sizes will be dive-bombing, loop-de-looping and soaring into the air when the Indianapolis RC South has its annual spring fly-in. Radio-controlled aircraft enthusiasts from throughout Indiana will be taking to the skies and showing off their hobby to the public.

pop into art

What: Pop Art — New York Style

When: 2 to 4 p.m. June 25

Where: Trafalgar library, 424 Tower St.

Information: jcplin.org

New York City pop artist Michael Albert doesn’t just see Tony the Tiger, Snap, Crackle and Pop or Cap’n Crunch as marketing gimmicks to sell cereal. When he looks at those characters on the boxes, he sees art. Albert has been making cubist collages by taking apart and putting together commentaries on society for more than 17 years, earning accolades, publishing books and touring.

He is touring the Midwest, and will stop in Trafalgar to give a presentation about collage work. Participants will hear about Albert’s unique approach to the collage process, see some of his most famous works, and get to try their own work of art.

explore a culture

What: India Day

When: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Aug. 11

Where: Monument Circle, downtown Indianapolis

In an effort to help the community learn more about Indian culture and celebrate the artistry that it produces, the India Association of Indianapolis will conduct its fourth annual India Day.

Dancers will perform in traditional dress, local chefs will serve curries and other dishes, and advocacy groups will help educate about India.

big rig fun 

What: Touch-A-Truck

When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 22

Where: Parks maintenance building, 675 S. Madison Ave., Greenwood.

Children often imagine driving a fire truck, being a doctor or being in construction when they get older. But local families can help them realize their dreams a little early during this inaugural event planned by the Greenwood Parks and Recreation Department.

Kids and adults can get behind the wheel of firetrucks, ambulances, dump trucks and other oversized vehicles to honk the horns, flash the lights and talk to the drivers. They might not be able to drive the trucks until they’re older, but this will be the next best thing.

classic cars

What: Johnson County Park Car Show and Swap Meet

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 17

Where: Johnson County Park Picnic Area, on Schoolhouse Road north of Hospital Road

Information: jcpark.org

Every year, some of the finest classic cars in the area gather at the Johnson County Park. Collectors swap parts and model replicas, talk RPMs and horsepower, and show off their GTOs, Corvettes and other vintage automobiles.

Hundreds of visitors will gather at the park for food, music and cars. Entering the show costs $15, but wandering the rows of cars talking to the owners is free of charge.

listen in

What: Concerts at the Indiana State Fair

When: Aug. 2 to 18

Where: Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1202 E. 38th St., Indianapolis

Information: in.gov/statefair

Music lovers have their choice of quality concerts this summer. But for all kinds of music in one place, zero in on the Indiana State Fair. The Marsh Free Stage offers a little bit of everything.

Classic rockers such as Styx and Blood, Sweat and Tears share the stage with contemporary acts such as Matt Nathanson and Vertical Horizon. Country fans can check out Joe Nichols and Montgomery Gentry, while local favorites Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band and Jennie DeVoe will offer a taste of the Indianapolis music scene.

cool night of jazz

What: Jazz Jam Session

Where: The Jazz Kitchen, 5377 N. College Ave., Indianapolis

When: 7 to 11 p.m. June 17, July 29 and Aug. 26

Information: thejazzkitchen.com

Located just south of Broad Ripple, the Jazz Kitchen is the heart of the city’s hip music scene. Low-key vibes and great music are featured on a nightly basis. But every month, the vibe gets even more loose, as Indy trumpeter Clifford Ratliff leads a improvisational jam session with a mix of jazz legends and up-and-comers.

watch art unfold

What: Create Your Heart Out

When: June 29

Where: Southside Art League, 299 E. Broadway St., Greenwood

Information: southsideartleague.org

A great piece of art is usually not something that can be made before an audience. Painters spend hours in a studio, carefully placing each stroke and ensuring their composition comes out as they envision. But for one day, the whole process will be played out for the public to see.

The Create Your Heart Out invites artists throughout the area to set up their easels at the Southside Art League’s Broadway Gallery. Underneath the shade of trees, they’ll work on individual paintings that will be finished before the sun goes down.

find masterpieces

What: Talbot Street Art Fair

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 8 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 9

Where: Talbot Street/Herron-Morton Place Historic District, 16th and Talbott Streets, Indianapolis

Information: www.talbotstreet.org

Check out paintings, ceramics, drawings, and other works of art in one of Indianapolis’ oldest neighborhoods. The Talbot Street Art Fair has been going continuously since 1955, and the close-knit community along the downtown street has nurtured it as their own.

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