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Bits & Pieces: Dark Star's eclipse

A frequent Portland visitor, Dark Star Ochestra, which performs at 8 p.m. April 18 at the Crystal Ballroom, has been touring for 16 years as the pre-eminent Grateful Dead tribute band.

During this year’s tour, Dark Star will surpass the number of shows that the Grateful Dead themselves played in 30 years — 2,318. It’ll happen between April 11 and 13 in San Francisco.

Dark Star does a remarkable job of recreating historic Grateful Dead set lists, as well as matching equipment and stage layout.

OMSI expansion

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has been growing in recent years, and it plans to continue to grow, launching a new capital campaign for a future Coastal Discovery Center in Newport.

The campaign hopes to attract funds to build a 20-acre science camp and living laboratory in Newport that will act as an important element in OMSI’s marine science education program.

OMSI officials say they already have secured 60 percent of the $10 million fundraising goal; Wells Fargo bank donated $100,000.

In hopes of accelerating the fundraising, the Fred Fields Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation has provided a $250,000 matching challenge grant and The Wollenberg Foundation has provided a $500,000 matching challenge grant in honor of Bill Tagmyer.

To follow the project’s progress, go to www.omsi.edu/coastal-discovery-center.

Nearing completion

The Portland Children’s Museum, at 4015 S.W. Canyon Road in Washington Park, has announced that it has received two big grants — $150,000 through its capital campaign, and a matching $150,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust — to help finish its Outdoor Adventure exhibit on 1.3 acres near the museum.

Outdoor Adventure will open April 22, and will connect children to the outdoors to foster a love for the environment and encourage physical activity.

For info: www.portlandcm.org.

Big birthday

A Tribune reader writes that a big birthday will be coming up on April 1. Actress Jane Powell, who played in “A Date With Judy” and “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” and numerous other films, turns 85.

Born April 1, 1929, in Portland, Powell lives with her fifth husband, former child star Dickie Moore, in New York City and Connecticut — according to Wikipedia.

Honoring Wilson

The three Portland representatives for the national August Wilson Monologue Competition, May 5 in New York City, are Lauren Steele of Jefferson High (first place), Taylor Salter of Metropolitan Learning Center (second place), and Sekai Edwards of Jefferson High (third place). They each received cash prizes for their accomplishments, and the Portland Actors Conservatory awarded Steele a two-year academic scholarship.

“August Wilson writes things that are so real,” says Steele, of the late African-American playwright. “His work applies to everyone, not just African-American people. His language is something I appreciate. It’s nice to be able to talk how I talk, how my mother talks, how my grandma talks. There’s a music to it — it can’t be duplicated.”

All three have performed with theater companies. Appearing on stage at August Wilson Theatre on Broadway won’t be an easy thing.

“I am, quite frankly, terrified,” Salter says. “Given that the competition here has been so tough, the best of the best is going to be insane. But I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of it.”

Classes and instruction from the likes of “Grimm” actor Russell Hornsby helped prepare the local contestants.

“As an actor, I grew so much,” Edwards says. “I didn’t care if I placed at the end.”

Adds Steele: “It’s all been such a great experience. The actors, the masters classes — everyone has been wonderful. They’re all such great people with so many different outlooks and different views. I’ve made some connections well worth sacrificing my Saturday mornings for.”

Free Comic Book Day

Make your plans for the big day, Saturday, May 3, as specialty shops around the country give away comic books.

More than 27 million free comics have been given away since the inception of Free Comic Book Day, with the emphasis on promoting the medium to new customers and to celebrate retailers.

Free comics to be distributed this year include: “Teen Titans Go!” “Archie;” “The Simpsons;” “Hello Kitty;” “Hellboy;” “Guardians of the Galaxy;” “Grimm Fairy Tales;” “Transformers” and more. For info: freecomicbookday.com.

Speaking of “Hellboy,” the art book “Hellboy: The First 20 Years” will be coming out on March 22, which Cosmic Monkey Comics (5335 N.E. Sandy Blvd.) has pronounced as “Hellboy Day” in commemoration of the comic character’s 20th birthday. The shop will be giving away a free “Hellboy” comic featuring a new story by Mike Mignola and Fabio Moon.

Quick ... create!

There’ll be a time-based art event, Red Bull Curates, coming to a conclusion 8 p.m. Thursday, March 20, at the Portland Art Museum. Twenty local artists had 24 hours to transform a blank, canvas-wrapped cooler into a work of art (with a distinctive Red Bull spin, of course). The two winners from Thursday night will take part in the Scope Art Fair in Miami later this year. For info: www.redbull.com.

Yesteryear’s racing

With the way time flies and people move around, it’s possible that a lot of folks in Portland don’t realize that the city used to be home to a thriving NASCAR short-oval track near Portland Meadows. It was called Portland Speedway, and it’s where the likes of legend Hershel McGriff raced and current NASCAR star Greg Biffle blossomed as fans packed the stands on Friday nights to watch local racers tear around the oval.

For the naive and the nostalgic, Arcadia Publishing and

author Jeff Zurschmeide have produced the book “Portland Speedway,” which documents through text and photographs the Speedway’s history from its 1936 beginnings to its 2002 demise. That’s right — for 66 years it lit up North Portland just off of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and the book provides a nice trip down memory lane.

Zurschmeide has been a longtime Portland automotive writer and connoisseur.

The book costs $21.99, and is available at local retailers, online, through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or by calling 1-888-313-2665.

Moonstruck honor

Moonstruck Chocolate Co. has received a Six Star Award from the International Chocolate Salon for its collection of rich, decadent cocoas. It’s the highest award possible by the influential organization.

Moonstruck makes three cocoas: Classic Hot Cocoa, Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa, and Mayan Hot Cocoa. For info: www.moonstruckchocolate.com.