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BEST BETS

Cultural diversity is for everyone, n'est-ce pas?

The celebration of Black History month, launched in 1926 as Negro History Week, was expanded in 1976 to mark the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout the country. This millennium, celebrate the observance throughout February during a series of programs sponsored by the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Department of Extension Services.

Activities for children ages 6 to 12 include: "African Tales" at 3 p.m. Feb. 17 at the Kensington branch, 22 Westminster Ave.; "African Americans in American History" at 4 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Dudley branch, 2010 South Park Ave.; "Africa American History Month: They Made This Country Great" at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at M.L. King, 451 William St., and 4:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at Mead, 126 Ludington.

In addition, trivia exhibits will be displayed throughout the month at the East Delavan branch and the North Jefferson branch, 332 E. Utica St.

Cold, snow, wind and darkness -- a winter combination enough to make you climb the walls of your waterfront condo. Battle those cabin-fever blues! Learn more about the Naval War on Lake Ontario!

The first of the Cabin Fever Lecture Series presented by the Old Fort Niagara Association, the talk will be given by author Robert Malcomson, who has written several books on the War of 1812. Slated for 2 p.m. Saturday, the program takes place in the Officers' Club of Fort Niagara State Park, and is the first in a series of historical talks that continue on Feb. 26, March 25 and April 29.

Admission -- which includes entry to Old Fort Niagara and light refreshments -- is $6.75 for adults, $5.50 for seniors and $4.50 for children ages 6 to 12. A ticket for all four lectures costs $20. Lecture topics for the series, as well as seat reservations, are available by calling 745-7611.

Frontier life can be such drudgery.

Until "Quilters" came along. The story of a pioneer woman and her daughters is being staged by O'Connell & Company at the Cabaret in the Square Theatre, 4476 Main St.

The play blends a series of unrelated scenes into a patchwork that captures the harsh challenge and abiding rewards of frontier life. Blocks of music, dance and drama interact to provide this saga of life on the frontier.

Tickets are priced $12 to $18 for performances that begin at 8 p.m. next Thursday and continue through Feb. 19. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays.

Nothing brightens the dull days of winter like a troupe of dancing penguins!

Just ask Mr. Popper, a humble house painter who turns vaudeville star in order to support a family of penguin pals.

"Mr. Popper's Penguins," an ice-melting hallmark of children's literature, is transformed by the Theatre of Youth into a musical tale that is suitable for children ages 4 and up.

The production, which lasts 90 minutes and includes one intermission, starts today at 7 p.m. and continues for afternoon performances this Saturday and Sunday, and Feb. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20. Afternoon shows begin at 2.

Tickets are $10 and may be ordered by calling 884-4400.

Mr. Popper will be staged at the historic Allendale Theatre, located at 203 Allen St. at the corner of Mariner Street.

Before you settle down Sunday to watch the Super Bowl, why not explore some white-blanket fun at the Snowflake Festival?

The annual event, held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Jamestown Audubon Nature Center, includes indoor and outdoor seasonal activities. Visitors to the 600-acre Burgeson Wildlife Sanctuary can warm to a photography show, sample a maple syrup treat called "wax on snow" or try their hands at quilting, wool spinning and yarn dyeing.

Venture outdoors for camping demonstrations and winter bird watching -- or bring sleds, snowshoes, ice skates and cross-country skis to explore the five miles of trails. Then slide aboard horse-drawn sleighs or wagons for a dollar-ride through the snow. Brrr.

Admission to the Snowflake Festival is $2 for adults; children under 12 get in free. For more information, or directions to the Nature Center -- located on 1600 Riverside Road in Jamestown -- call 569-2345.

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