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Center Stage: What's hot in the Midlands

FRIDAY, Dec. 18

The Sandlapper Singers will perform the "American Graces" Christmas concert in the Dreher High School auditorium. There's an added treat to this show: More than 100 students from Satchel Ford Elementary School and Crayton Middle School and the Falcon Singers from A.C. Flora High School will join the Sandlapper Singers. If the Christmas cheer isn't overwhelming at this concert, you're better off getting a metal pole and celebrating Festivus.

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. The high school is at 3319 Millwood Ave. $5 to 15; http://www.sandlappersingers.org or (803) 381-5481

FRIDAY, Dec. 18, and SATURDAY, Dec. 19

It's about to be crunch time if you're still looking for ideas for a one-of-a-kind gift. Maybe you should take a look at the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County's annual Holiday House show and sale. If nothing else, you'll get to spend a few relaxing hours in Camden.

The show features, among other items, handcrafted art in clay, glass, fiber and wood by more than 40 local and regional artists. There's also locallyproduced food products such as jams, jellies, honey and candy available.

Shopping hours are 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The FAC is at 810 Lyttleton St., Camden. For more information, call (803) 425-7676 or visit http://www.fineartscenter.org.

FRIDAY, Dec. 18, through SUNDAY, Dec. 20

If you haven't seen "The Nutcracker" this season - or ever?! - this is your last weekend to take in the spectacular tale. And if this is the only time you'll see it this season, the Columbia City Ballet's performance is the right place to go. The company will perform "The Nutcracker" tonight through Sunday at the Koger Center. The company is producing the holiday spectacle for the 29th consecutive year.

Showtimes: 7:30 tonight; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 3 p.m. Sunday. The Koger Center is at 1051 Greene St. $11 to $46; (803) 251-2222

FRIDAY, Dec. 18, through TUESDAY, Dec. 22

The 8th Annual Chick-fil-A Classic will be held through Tuesday at Richland Northeast High School.

High school basketball teams from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, New York, Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky will play in the tournament. You can catch glimpse of tomorrow's NBA stars.

Players such as the Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith have participated in the tournament.

Signees for USC, North Carolina, Virginia, Clemson and Kansas State will be on the court.

For more information, visit. http://www.chick-fil-aclassic.com.

SATURDAY, Dec. 19

The "winter holidays" really don't apply to the kids who just got out of school here because there's rarely any snow. But you can see what else winter brings at the State Museum's annual Winter Fest.

In its third year, Winter Fest is a two-week celebration of the season. It kicks off 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and runs through Jan. 3. On Saturday, the Lake Murray Chamber Orchestra will play from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite." Santa will be there, too. (He'll be back Monday through Wednesday.)

Other Winter Fest highlights:

- 3 p.m. Sunday, a concert by gospel singers Levitical Praise at 3 p.m.

- "Shortest Day, Longest Night," a day of programs on the winter solstice, on Monday.

- On Wednesday, celebrate the winter break with Dinosaur Day, which includes two screenings of "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The museum is at 301 Gervais St. For more information, visit www.southcarolinastatemuseum.org. or call (803) 898-4952.

"Frosty," Columbia Children's Theatre's production of the life of the most famous snowman, will be staged at the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County at 2 p.m. in the Wood Auditorium. The FAC is at 810 Lyttleton St. $6; (803) 425-7676 or http://www.fineartscenter.org

MONDAY, Dec. 21

The Columbia Choral Society will perform "Messiah Sing-A-Long" at Washington Street United Methodist Church. The chorus will perform part one of Handel's "Messiah." The show starts at 7 p.m. The church is 1401 Washington St. For more information, visit http://www.columbiachoralsociety.org.

The Ross Holmes Band will perform "Christmastime in Caroline" at Eastminster Presbyterian Church. The program will feature traditional holiday music followed by a reception in the parlor. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. The church is at 3200 Trenholm Road. The concert is free, but an offering will be taken.

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 23

"A Serious Man," a film by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, opens at Nickelodeon. The Coens, directors of movies such as "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" "Raising Arizona," "Fargo," "The Big Lebowski" and "No Country For Old Men," are back with their latest Oscar contender.

"A Serious Man" is a black comedy set in the '60s about a physics professor whose life deteriorates after his wife tells him she's leaving.

The movie runs through Jan. 5. The Nick is at 937 Main St. For more information, call (803) 254-3433 or visit http://www.nickelodeon.org.

The Flying Saucer will host its annual Christmas Glass Night at 7 p.m. The commemorative glass will go fast, so patrons should get there early. The Flying Saucer is at 931 Senate St. (803) 933-9902

ONGOING

if ART Gallery is already exhibiting "100 Under 1,000: ifARTworks for $999 And Less." The gallery is now presenting "50 under 500," which will run simultaneously with "100 under 1,000." The exhibition will be open through Dec. 24. The art represented is spectacular in discipline and size. If you already know what everyone else wants, perhaps you'll find something for yourself.

if ART is at 1223 Lincoln St. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (803) 238-2351.

- Otis R. Taylor Jr.

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