Our annual Summer Guide scoops up the season's best diversions.

Melt With Us 

Our annual Summer Guide scoops up the season's best diversions.

18th Street Fashion Show

The block of 18th Street just east of Wyandotte is Kansas City's fashion hub. The boutiques there — Birdies, Spool, Shuttlecocks, Habitat and, coming in June, Pidgeon — do their damnedest to keep our city's residents from falling too far behind the ever-elusive curve. These clothes are colorful, cute and ultra-hip, so it makes sense that the annual fashion show here is much the same. This year's theme is "Chocolate Summer," and organizers promise "delectable fashion to capture this summer's urban function and urbane fancy." A little vague, maybe, but we know to expect a closed-off block, a big runway, hot models, original local designs and live music from TJ Dovebelly. Put another way: This is the coolest place in town to be tonight. — David Hudnall

18th Street Fashion Show, 8 p.m., Saturday, June 24, West 18th Street between Wyandotte and Baltimore. For information, see www.chocolatesummer.com.

Day Out With Thomas 2006 Something about trains connects with kids on an innate level. Maybe it's the motion or the promise of exploration. Or it might just be choo-choos and clickity-clacks and guys in funny hats. Either way, rugrats go nuts about anything railroad-related — which is why Thomas the Tank Engine has been successful. Originally a character in a 1940s book, Thomas has evolved into a fan favorite on PBS Kids, and for two straight weekends he chugs into Baldwin City. It's a bit of a trek from the city, but trust us: Taking the kid in your life to see an actual train that's been converted to look like Thomas — that you can ride on! — will be enough to send the youngster's serotonin levels skyrocketing. It could also be used as leverage in future requests for good behavior. — David Hudnall

Day Out With Thomas 2006, 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, June 2-4 and June 9-11 at the Midland Railway, 1515 High Street in Baldwin, Kansas. Tickets are $16 for a 25-minute ride. For more information, see www.thomasandfriends.com.

Rhythm and Ribs 2006

Oh, to have been around for Kansas City's golden years — back when we were the "Paris of the Plains," when Tom Pendergast was boss, when Charlie Parker played at the local jazz clubs. Those days are so gone. At this point, the best we can do is honor the spirit of those times with a swingin' party in the historic jazz district. The Rhythm and Ribs Festival has it covered, offering up pretty much exactly what its name advertises: a weekend of jazz, blues, R&B and gospel music alongside tasty barbecue. Headliners include Al Green (pictured), Keb' Mo' and Shemekia Copeland. Plus, there's an amateur barbecue contest and plenty of activities for kids, so it's a perfectly fine way to spend Father's Day weekend. And isn't having the Rev. Green feed your soul with "Love and Happiness" worth the price of admission? — David Hudnall

Rhythm and Ribs 2006, 4-11 p.m. Friday, June 16; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, June 17; noon-6 p.m. Sunday, June 18 at Parade Park and the Jay McShann Pavilion at 18th Street and Vine. Advance tickets are $15 for adults, $6 for children; at the gate, they're $20 for adults and $7 for children. See www.kcrhythmandribs.com for times and ticket information, or call 816-474-6262.

Crossroads Musical Theater Festival Times

Theater League Inc. has production companies in California, Texas and Ohio, but it's based smack in downtown Kansas City. As a result of this geographical good fortune, we get the luxury of attending the Kansas City Crossroads Musical Theater Festival this July. The fest — which features eight new musical theater pieces selected from across the nation — is a first for our town and promises to become another exciting tradition in the burgeoning downtown district. "We believe that by introducing audiences to new, fresh musical theater productions, we're also offering new talent and ideas the opportunity to grow and thrive," says Mark Edelman, Theater League president. His enthusiasm has rubbed off on us — we're most excited about the adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo (our favorite book growing up) and Dakota Sky, about the land lottery in Wyoming and the Dakotas in the early 1900s. — David Hudnall

Crossroads Musical Theater Festival, Fridays and Saturdays, July 14-15 and July 21-22. Confirmed stages at the Kansas City Ballet, 1601 Broadway, Penn Valley Theatre, 3201 Southwest Trafficway, and Just Off Broadway, 3051 Central. $10 covers the weekend of performances; see www.theaterleague.com for show times and locations, or call 816-421-7500.

Elvis Parade

About three people showed up at the first downtown Elvis Parade back in 1988, according to 99.7 KYYS morning personality Tanna Guthrie. Today, between 10,000 and 20,000 folks hang out at Barney "Elvis" Plaza wearing Graceland T-shirts and fake sideburns. "We get a pretty weird mix of people. It's definitely part freak show," says Guthrie, who has organized the parade since its inception. "It's hard to figure out who's just being funny and who's seriously insane." This year's grand marshal hasn't been determined yet, but expect someone campy — previous honors have gone to "Weird Al" Yankovic, the Watson's girl and, last year, American Idol reject William Hung. An Elvis look-alike contest and various circus stunts provide the post-parade entertainment. One other thing: Don't be surprised by the parade's short duration. As Guthrie puts it, "We only walk about three blocks because we feel like Elvis wouldn't have wanted to sweat, either." — David Hudnall

Elvis Parade, noon, Friday, August 11, at Barney Allis Plaza, 12th Street and Central. For more information, call 913-677-8013.

North vs. South Music Festival

Civil War re-enactments give us the creeps, but not the North vs. South Music Festival. That's probably because it involves Telecasters instead of muskets and pop-rock instead of funeral dirges. Lawrence musician Mike McCoy decided three years ago to celebrate William Quantrill's pillaging of his Kansas college town by inviting bands from two perpetually thriving music scenes, one north (Minneapolis) and one south (Austin, Texas) to duel it out onstage. This year's bill has expanded to include other border rivalries, including KC vs. Lawrence and Kentucky vs. Ohio. Honestly, though, the whole thing's really just an excuse to import live music from other towns for a weekend. Highlights include the Meat Purveyors (pictured) playing a rare electric set, Lori Barbero (formerly of Babes in Toyland) and Pong. Plus, we keep hearing rumblings about a supersecret surprise on Saturday night. — David Hudnall

North vs. South Music Festival, Friday, August 18, and Saturday, August 19. Confirmed Lawrence venues are the Jackpot Saloon (943 Massachusetts) and Replay Lounge (946 Massachusetts). For information, call 785-393-4925.

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