Los Angeles Times

Market value

With all of the hotties wandering around, it's easy to get sidetracked at Northalsted Market Days--not to mention the fact that the fest, now in its 26th year, is billed as the Midwest's largest two-day outdoor festival. At a party this big, where do you start? Let us help: Here are the eight things we're most looking forward to this year.

Workin' it. At most street fairs, the "dancing" isn't pretty--it usually involves loopy gyrating and sloshing beer. But at the DJ-pumped high-energy Hydrate dance corner at Cornelia Avenue and Halsted Street, we've got four words for you: You. Better. Work. It. If previous years are any indication, there will be Vogueing.

Going shirtless. Finally, a chance to take off your shirts and show the world what you're made of--pierced nipples and all. Why is this any different than any one of Chicago's dozens of other summer fests? Because we're not talking about just the men.

Getting wet. Really wet. When things get steamy (and you know they will), head to the dunk tank at the corner of Halsted and Roscoe Streets to help a handful of brave hotties beat the heat and raise funds for charity. It's well worth the $2 for three shots at a sassy lineup of dunkees, including a mystery local celeb and popular bartenders.

Rubbing elbows with Ari Gold. No, not the foul-mouthed agent from "Entourage." We're talking about the soulful singer who sets stages ablaze with his infectious, sensual dance-pop tracks. With two albums and another one on the way, Gold could easily steal sexy back from that Timberlake guy. Catch him at 5:00 p.m. Saturday on the Roscoe Stage.

Sipping margaritas at Las Mananitas. To put it kindly, when it comes to Mexican food, we'd rather eat anywhere else about, oh, 363 days a year. But during these hot, hot Market Days, you'll never be able to find a margarita so cold and sweet as the ones served at Las Mananitas.

Catching square-dance fever. We're all about letting big headliners like Taylor Dayne tell it to our hearts (6:45 p.m. Sunday, Roscoe Stage), but when we want to do-si-do to an alternative beat, we'll swing by the infectiously fun Chi-town Squares' booth for a hootin' hollerin' good time.

Cooling down. Need a spot to kick back? Look no farther than retro-cool Lakeview Broadcasting Co. According to owner Stephen Westman, the bar plans to ring in the weekend in royal redneck style. Look for an Astroturf "lawn" littered with lounge chairs and kiddie pools out front, plus laundry lines loaded with vintage tees for sale from sister operation Lakeview Manufacturing Co.

Rocking with Marty Casey & Lovehammers. With three music stages and more than 40 acts, Market Days is going to rock six city blocks all weekend. But we're waiting for "Rock Star: INXS" runner-up Marty Casey and his band to really crank it up. Expect an enthusiastic and gnarling performance at 6:45 p.m. Saturday on the Roscoe Stage.

Metromix special contributors Colleen L. Curtis, Garin Pirnia and Fred Schlatter; Chris LaMorte, Metromix dining producer. metromix@tribune.com

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