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All the hoopla 

Yes, we know that basketball is not generally considered one of the arts, though dyed-in-the-wool fanatics might argue otherwise. It combines the artistry and muscle of modern dance in a theatrical setting of music, color and sheer noise.

Performance art or not, with 20,000 NCAA basketball fans streaming into Central Arkansas this weekend for one of the opening rounds of the major college men's basketball tournament, those of us who didn't have the foresight or the cash to buy tickets still reap the benefits: There's a lot going on.

Big Downtown Thursdays kick off on — you guessed it — Thursday, in the River Market Pavilion, with funk/soul cover band Memphis Soul Revue performing. On Friday, also in the River Market, muscle cars line the park for Cruisin' in the Rock. Later, nu-soul standout Eric Roberson gives a show at Juanita's, while Lucero front man Ben Nichols plays White Water. Then, on Saturday, the Farmer's Market makes an early return, local favorites Grand Serenade and the Big Cats perform a special concert at the Zoo and the River Market Pavilion plays host to the music of CRISIS! For further info on these events and more, see our packed-to-the-brim entertainment section.

But the lively arts do not begin and end this weekend. We also are looking ahead, with the 2008 version of our annual Spring Arts Guide. True to the season, rebirth is at the heart of our two feature stories. Contributor Derek Jenkins surveys the newly revitalized Northwest Arkansas music scene, while Lindsey Millar details new developments at Wildwood Park, the performing arts center west of Little Rock. Plus, we've got full previews on upcoming music, film, theater and art events and a near comprehensive spring calendar. Start making plans….

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