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Past attendees include former President Bill Clinton, current First Lady Michelle Obama, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Alec Baldwin, and Rafael Nadal. For some it’s the unofficial start to the U.S. Open and a tribute to an athletic and civil rights legend, but for others, it’s an entertainment-heavy day full of pop culture sensations, exhibitions by professional tennis players, and a smorgasbord of activities and fun.

This Saturday, Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day will take place at the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Youngsters of all skill levels will participate in tennis and fitness activities, often with shorter courts, smaller rackets and less bouncy balls, while others will do drills to increase agility, balance, coordination, speed, and strength. There will also be a juggling workshop, hair beading and braiding, balloon artists, roving entertainers, and appearances by Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob, Dora, and Diego. Serena Williams and Andy Murray will be on hand this year, and the concert features chart-toppers such as The Bomb Digz, Kalin and Myles, Hollywood Ending and Karina Rae.

Details and photos after the jump. (more…)

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It’s basically the best tennis on Planet Earth, and it’s completely free with no long lines. The U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament will begin tomorrow with 128 men and 128 women competing for 32 entries (16 men and 16 women) in the main draws. For four days, up-and-coming stars from around the world will battle each other at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and spectators can simply walk around and check out the matches. The circuit’s best players (i.e. Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams) get direct berths into the main draw, but they might be on site, practicing for opening day on August 25th.

Details: U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament, USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, August 19th through August 22nd, 10 am to around 6 pm, free.

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Photos: USTA

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The New York State Pavilion isn’t the only World’s Fair relic in the spotlight. According to the Queens Courier, the Olmstead Center — the 1964 building used as temporary offices for Robert Moses and the World’s Fair Corporation staff — is getting a modern day makeover. The building is now used as a headquarters for the Parks Department. BKSK Architects is working on the renovation in two phases. The first phase includes an expansion with a new 10,000-square-foot annex building. That part of the project is nearly done. For the second phase, BKSK will add technology upgrades and building improvements to help with flooding problems. There will also be new siding for the building and a more disability-friendly interior space. The whole project should be complete by early next year 2015.

The Parks Department is now collecting bids for a contractor, due September 8th. Check out more renderings from BKSK after the jump.

Former 1964 World’s Fair Office Building Set for Upgrade [Queens Courier] (more…)

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The Design Trust for Public Space just gave the Queens Museum and the Parks Department a portion of a $100,000 grant to help people travel through the massive (900 acres!) Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. DNAinfo wrote this morning that there’s a proposal floating around to install wayfinding signage throughout the park. The Parks Department, the Design Trust and the Queens Museum plan to work with the community and refine the proposal ASAP — the Parks Department said signage is one of the biggest priorities here.

The grant comes from the Design Trust’s “The Energetic City: Connectivity in the Public Realm” program. The Trust asked applicants to “redefine NYC’s public space” and granted funds to four different proposals, including this one. The amount of money to be allocated to the wayfinding program isn’t set yet.

More Wayfinding Signs May be Coming to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park [DNAinfo]

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Qu Yuan had a rather difficult life, but he left a tremendous legacy. This super-patriotic court minister fell out of favor with the king, who banished him from his home state of Chu. Yuan then wandered the earth, writing poetry in praise of his beloved homeland until one day in 278 BC, when he heard that Chu had been conquered by the Qin Dynasty. In despair, he jumped into the Miluo River in Hunan Province and drown, as local fisherman rowed boats into the water and threw rice dumplings at his body to save it from hungry fish. Yuan’s death was the birth of dragon boat racing, which takes place each year on the fifth day of the fifth lunar year around the world. Rice dumplings are served all day, and after the races, it is customary to observe outdoor theater, traditional Chinese dance performances, martial arts, and other cultural demonstrations.

This Saturday, the 24th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York will kick off in Flushing Meadows Corona Park with a parade at noon. Then, more than 2,000 participants — organized into over 170 teams — will compete in various race categories in Meadow Lake over the weekend. As it is the 75th and 50th anniversaries of the two Queens World’s Fairs, there will be a municipal invitational race featuring teams from the offices of Mayor Bill De Blasio, Borough President Melinda Katz, Congresswoman Grace Meng, and Assemblyman Ron Kim. Visitors will also be able to enjoy martial arts by the Shaolin Monks and West Indian music by the CASYM Steel Orchestra, as well as traditional Asian folk arts and crafts and a diverse food court. 

Details and photos after the jump. (more…)

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Thank God It’s Thursday! Tonight, the Queens Museum offers the first installment of Passport Thursdays, a weekly series featuring outdoor music, dance, and film. Set to run from 7 pm until 10 pm, each presentation will have an ethnic theme, and the Flushing Meadows Corona Park venue will offer free, hands-on artmaking workshops before each movie starts. As an extra benefit, the galleries and cafe will stay open until 8 pm these nights. (In the case of rain, Passport Thursdays will move inside the museum.)

India is the focus on July 31st. Sonali Skandan & Jiva Dance (above) will present Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form of South India. The scheduled movie is The World Before Her, which tells the story of two young women who follow completely divergent paths in modernizing India. One wants to become Miss India; the other is a fierce Hindu Nationalist prepared to kill and die for her beliefs.

Information and photos on the following three Passport Thursdays are on the jump page.

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Get ready for some mujeres extraordinarias. Over six upcoming days, the Queens Theatre is going to present the 2014 Latino Culture Festival: Extraordinary Women, Illuminated, 11 diverse acts celebrating Spanish-speaking countries and the female portrayers of their cultures. This means tango, bolero, salsa, and mariachis, but it also means drama, a play reading and a Spanish version of Little Red Riding Hood.

The schedule with descriptions of each show and more photos are on the jump page.

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07/21/14 1:00pm

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Brooklyn has hipsters. Queens has Hip-to-Hip. This theater company, which specializes in family-friendly productions, performs Shakespeare classics for free in various public spaces throughout the borough each summer. This year, Hip-to-Hip will put on the Bard of Avon’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, an early slapstick comedy about love, friendship, betrayal, forgiveness…and a dog, and Cymbeline, a late romance/fairy tale about a king, his only daughter, an evil stepmother, and a forbidden love. The professional actors will perform in repertory, and 30 minutes before each performance, they will host “Kids & The Classics,” an interactive workshop for children of all ages.

Details after the jump. (more…)

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Triple anniversary, double digit authors, one huge celebration. The Queens Theatre was established in 1989 in the former Theaterama site, which is one of only three buildings remaining from the 1964 World’s Fair. The performance space is marking these 25- and 50-year milestones by presenting The World’s Fair Play Festival over nine days. Ten playwrights have created 10 original, 10-minute pieces inspired by the 1939 (a 75-year milestone) and/or 1964 World’s Fairs, both of which took place in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. In these dramas, six main actors work with three directors and a small ensemble to encourage audiences to look into the future with the same optimism and hope that the two Queens World’s Fairs inspired in their visitors. The participants are celebrated writers and actors, including Todd Almond (Lear deBessonet’s The Tempest at the Public Theater, Girlfriend); Deen (Public Theatre Emerging Writers Group; Draw The Circle, Queens Theatre and elsewhere); and Kristoffer Diaz (Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety, Welcome to Arroyo’s, Queens Theatre and Lark Play Development Center).

Details: The World’s Fair Play Festival, Queens Theatre, 14 United Nations Ave. S., Flushing Meadows Corona Park, July 18th through July 27th, $18 with the following schedule: Friday, July 18th through 20th; Friday, July 25th through 27th; Fridays, 8 pm; Saturdays, 2 pm and 8 pm; Sundays, 3 pm.

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Photos: Queens Theatre

07/03/14 1:00pm

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Next week, people in a large, public lawn in Queens will follow the yellow brick road as Dorothy Gale searches for a wizard who can allegedly return her to Kansas. Then, in late August, the same public green space will become supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, as per a nanny with an umbrella and magical powers.

It’s the 75th and 50th anniversaries of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, which took place in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and it’s the 75th jubilee of The Wizard of Oz’s debut as well as the 50th anniversary of the Mary Poppins launch. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is celebrating these many milestones by hosting an outdoor screening of The Wizard of Oz (above) on July 9th and a showing of Mary Poppins (below) on August 20th in what Borough President Melinda Katz likes to call “The World’s Park.”

Details after the jump. (more…)