7 Preservationists are sure to get misty-eyed when they see the Rail Barons' model train display at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society: Featured in the layout are replicas of several Western New York landmarks that have gone the way of the wrecking ball. The exhibit represents a typical early 20th century village, complete with models of trains that ran when Buffalo was a major rail center. Train buffs of all ages will be wowed by the railroad's digital command control system, which allows for operation of more than 30 trains traveling at different speeds and in different directions. The display is on view from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Historical Society, 25 Nottingham Terrace. It continues weekends through Feb. 25. For more information call 873-9644.
8 Studio Arena starts the New Year with a trip to the not-too-distant past: The OBIE-winning drama "The Syringa Tree" takes place in South Africa's apartheid era, telling the story of an abiding love between two families -- one white, one black -- and the two children born into their shared household. The play was conceived as an acting studio exercise and grew into a phenomenon, winning the praise of everyone from Matthew Broderick to Oprah Winfrey. Introduced first to a 6-year-old girl trying to make sense of the horrors of segregationist South Africa, the audience follows the destinies of 24 characters as they embody a country's joys and sorrows. Here's the kicker: All of the characters -- male, female, young, old, black, white, English and Jewish -- are played by one actress. Studio Arena has dual-cast the role; as of this writing, one actress, Gin Hammond, had been confirmed. Watch her transformations during the first full week of production. Tonight's show begins at 7. Performances continue through Jan. 28 in the theater at 710 Main St. For tickets, call 856-5650.
11 Native son Jake Halpern returns home to discuss the discoveries he made while researching "Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truth Behind America's Favorite Addiction." In his second book, Halpern, who has reported on Hollywood for National Public Radio, explores the dark implications of our obsession with the red carpet set. If you can pull yourself away from the latest issue of People, head over to Talking Leaves Bookstore, 3158 Main St., at 7 p.m. Maybe he'll even sign your book.
* Toast the spirit of one of the country's most maligned presidents at the Millard Fillmore Birthday Celebration. Taking place at 6 p.m. in East Aurora's Roycroft Inn, 40 S. Grove St., the annual shindig gives guests a chance to savor "Know Nothing Stew" and birthday cake while learning which politician will receive the dubious distinction known as the "Millard Mallard." Another highlight of the evening is listening to the 13th president -- a.k.a. Grant Hamilton, owner of the East Aurora Advertiser -- recap 2006's weird and wooly political news. Now, that could take all night. Tickets cost $20. For reservations, call 652-8444.
13 The Buffalo Zoo invites us warm-blooded types to learn about cold-blooded critters at a daylong celebration of all things reptilian. Animal keepers will give talks, feed the animals and lead guests in hands-on enrichment activities. Everything is free with zoo admission. To find out more, call the zoo at 837-3900.
16 Since retiring as concertmaster with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, violinist Charles Haupt has been busy establishing a series of chamber music recitals in Western New York. The next installment of the "Musical Feast" features Haupt alongside violinist Charles Castleman, violist Feng Hew and percussionist Tom Kolor. The program includes the Buffalo premiere of Mieczyslaw Weinberg's "Violin Sonata No. 2." The music begins at 8 p.m. at the Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave. Tickets cost $25. Call 829-7668.
19 The storied Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus performs two concerts this month, tonight at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 695 Elmwood Ave., and Saturday, Jan. 20, at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave. Both begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $16 for students and seniors. Call 883-1277 or log on to buffalogaymenschorus.com for more information.
26 Clip your nails, shine your coat and adjust your collar. It's time for Art Unleashed, the SPCA's annual fund-raising shindig. Held at the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts, the gala features hors d'oeuvres, cocktails and auctions of animal-themed artwork. The fur starts flying at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $45 at the door, but you can buy them ahead of time and save yourself five bucks. Just think of the Puppy Chow that would buy. Call the SPCA at 629-3523 for more information.
27 The folks at the Buffalo Museum of Science have planned a flurry of activities to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Blizzard of '77. Over the weekend visitors will have the opportunity to partake in snow-related activities -- all indoors, mercifully -- and listen to a panel presentation of local celebrities reminiscing about what they were doing when the big one hit. Make sure you don't miss the film footage, photos and blizzard memorabilia. For more information, call the museum at 896-5200.
28 Next up for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's "Art of Jazz Series" is Trio da Paz. Praised for fusing jazz and Brazilian music "in a frighteningly fresh and exciting way," the trio -- guitarist Romero Lubambo, bassist Nilson Matta and drummer Duduka de Fonseca -- redefines the spirit of bossa nova when it plays a 3 p.m. concert among the masterworks. Arrive an hour early to hear musicologist Mike Lewis discuss the influence of American jazz on contemporary Brazilian music. Tickets cost $18 for gallery members and $21 general admission. Call 882-8700.
31 It's a bird ... it's a plane ... it's Super Grover! The spindly blue Muppet will make his trademark crash landing into the theater district when his "Ready for Action" live show premieres at Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St. Toddlers might throw a tantrum when they learn that Sesame Street's resident action hero has lost his "superness." The good news is that a new team of heroes -- including Elmo, Zoe and Big Bird -- spring into action to restore Grover's powers. Curtain opens at 7 p.m., with shows continuing through Feb. 4. For tickets call 852-5000 or log on to ticketmaster.com.
FIRST SUNDAY struggles mightily with its impresario instincts when compiling its Guide to an Excellent Month. Send your events at least four weeks in advance of our publishing date to: First Sunday, c/o The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240. Remember, information is subject to change.