There's a plethora of piscine portraiture at the Folkworks Gallery in Evanston starting this weekend. The gallery's exhibit Gone Fishin' includes whirligigs by Darrell Johnson, antique fish decoys from the 30s and 40s by artists including Oscar Peterson and A.J. Downey, and decoys by present-day folk artists Mark Thorsen, Shawn Andrews, Ed Paschke Sr. (yes, his father), and Anthony Costanza. The exhibit opens tonight, with some of the artists (including Paschke) on hand from 5 to 9. Tomorrow Thorsen demonstrates his craft from 10 to 5. Folkworks is at 1310<4 Chicago in Evanston; it's open 11 to 5 Tuesday through Friday, 10 to 5 Saturday, and noon to 5 Sunday. Call 708-328-0083.
Rockin' Dopsie, aka Alton Jay Rubin, was dubbed the king of zydeco by the mayor of Lafayette, Louisiana, after the death of true sovereign Clifton Chenier. The wild accordion player and his band the Zydeco Twisters--who appeared on Graceland on the track "That Was Your Mother" and will soon be recording their major-label debut under the tutelage of Atlantic Records' legendary founder Ahmet Ertegun--will play three sets starting at 9:30 tonight and tomorrow at B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera, 1124 W. Belmont. Cover is $8; call 525-8989.
The seventh annual Oz Park Festival gets under way tonight with a food, jazz, and crafts preview from 5 to 10; jazz keyboardist Kim Pensyl hits the stage at 8:30. The fair continues tomorrow and Sunday from noon to dusk with everything from mud wrestling to performances of Twelfth Night by the Equity Library Theatre (at 8 PM Saturday and Sunday). Oz Park is at Lincoln, Webster, and Larrabee; there's a $3 requested donation. Details at 880-5200.
You probably already know something about Charles Gates Dawes--for instance, that he used to live on Greenwood Street in Evanston, with a porch that looked out over Lake Michigan, in the house that's now HQ for the Evanston Historical Society. But did you know he was also the only U.S. vice president to be credited on a Van Morrison album? Along with everything else, Dawes was a composer, and his "Melody in F" became "It's All in the Game," first a huge hit (six weeks at number one) for crooner Tommy Edwards and later covered by Morrison on Into the Music. This weekend's fifth annual Charles Gates Dawes Croquet Tourney benefits the historical society. Things get under way at 8 AM at the Dawes House, 225 Greenwood, with registration and a continental breakfast. Lunch will fall between morning and afternoon rounds of croquet, and champagne and prize awarding will conclude the day. It's $35, $30 for members. Call 708-475-3410.
The luminous Vulgar Boatmen and skilled modern-country songwriters Stump the Host are part of the stellar entertainment lineup at Midsummer Night Scene, tonight's benefit for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Illinois. Also performing will be the palindromic comedy group Ah-Ha. The $40 ticket includes entry in a raffle with prizes like a trip to New York to see David Letterman, round-trip tickets to London, and various health club memberships, hotel stays, and dinners out. It starts at 8 at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage; dress is "creative black tie." Call 236-4491 for details.
BAMMI--Bicycle Across the Magnificent Miles of Illinois, the annual fund-raiser for the Chicago Lung Association--follows a 500-mile route through the wilds of the state, with leisurely stops for state-park touring, antique shopping, and sight-seeing. The first leg, a 71-mile trek to Kankakee, takes off today at 9 from Buckingham Fountain. The week-long trip costs $200, plus proof that you've raised at least $100 in pledges; you bring your own sleeping bag, and the association provides campgrounds, showers, meals, and medical and bike-maintenance staffs. Or you can just take the day trip to Kankakee; that costs $15 plus $10 in pledges. Preregistration is required, at 243-2000.
Jamaica's gone through some political mood swings in its time: After it became an independent country (within the British Commonwealth) in 1962, the government was dominated by the capitalist Labor Party. Ten years later Michael Manley, who represented the socialist People's National Party, was elected prime minister by a landslide. In 1980 Manley was defeated by Labor Party leader Edward Seaga, but Manley was reinstated in the most recent election. Today's Jamaican Independence Day celebration in Daley Plaza wisely avoids politics and focuses on music: Charles Cameron and the Sunshine Band and the West Indian Dance Company entertain starting at 11:30 and running through the lunch hour. There'll also be speakers from the Jamaican consul and the Jamaican American Association. It's free, sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs; call 346-3278 for info.
If you missed last week's lecture on plankton, those microcreatures at the base of the food chain, you can still catch Conserving Wetlands: Nature's Liquid Food Factories tonight; Gerald Paulson, director of the environmental group the McHenry County Defenders, will talk at 7 about the effect of swamp destruction on local wildlife. Both lectures (and two coming up) are part of the "Wetlands Watch" series at the Chicago Academy of Sciences, 2001 N. Clark; admission is $5, free for academy members. Or get a more hands-on explanation by going on the academy's field trip to the Des Plaines River Wetlands Project next Sunday, August 11; it costs $20, $16 for members, and requires registration; call 549-0775. The next two lectures will cover reconstructing wetlands (August 20) and keeping an eye out for unscrupulous developers using wetland sites (August 27).
The producers of the new cabaret-comedy-variety-talk show Not for Your Mother's Basement temptingly promise that its guests will reveal "things you don't even want to know!" (They also promise "drinks available!" and "parking next door!") Music and comedy purveyor Alexandra Billings hosts celebrity guests Tuesdays at 8 at the second stage of the Halsted Theatre Centre, 2700 N. Halsted. The show also features "real live people as scenery." Tonight's guests are cabaret singer Nan "the Diva" Mason, saxophonist Terry Higgins, Second City comedienne Jackie Hoffman, and Mr. Taps, with Bob Mackie models as the scenery. Tickets are $15; reserve them at 348-0110.
The rather eclectic combination of photo manipulations by Steve Becker, Chicago-themed paintings by John Threadgill and Cheryl Gross, and one-of-a-kind picture frames and sunglasses by Julie Wishmeyer are on display through September 5 at Chiaroscuro Gallery, 750 N. Orleans. It's open Monday through Saturday 10 to 5:30, Thursday 10 to 7. Call 988-9253.
Jimo's Cafe at 1576 N. Milwaukee is giving away $100 tonight; that's the prize in the Wednesday-night poetry contest that starts this week. There's no fee to enter, and no cover to watch (though an "entertainment charge" will show up on your tab). Sign-up starts at 10, reading at 10:30. Details at 278-2424.
Local herb pro Louise Gruenberg, whose many accomplishments include authoring a 130-page book on potpourri, gives the fourth in her series of lectures at the Oak Park Conservatory tonight. In Teas and Tonics she'll cover historical and contemporary medicinal uses for herbs and give out recipes and herb samples. It runs 7 to 9 at the conservatory's Earth Shelter, 615 Garfield in Oak Park, and costs $20. The remaining three lectures take place the following three Tuesdays, same place and time, and cover, respectively, herbs as insect repellents, making natural dyes from plants, and incorporating herbs into your landscape. Call 708-383-5082 to register.