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Theater review: History Theatre’s ‘Not in Our Neighborhood’ is a valuable history lesson

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Theater review: History Theatre’s ‘Not in Our Neighborhood’ is a valuable history lesson

Welcome back, History Theatre. The Twin Cities’ latest company to invite audiences back into its venue may have the most unambiguous mission: Endeavoring to help audiences become present with the past, offering insight into history — particularly Minnesota history — by lending depth and dimension to its events and participants on stage.

When it comes to a convergence of past and present, History Theatre has rarely produced something as timely as “Not in Our Neighborhood!” The play by two St. Paulites, Tom Fabel and Eric Wood, examines a seldom-discussed chapter in the city’s history: When an African-American couple decided to buy a house in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood in 1924, they encountered angry mobs, threats and burning crosses.

This was not just any couple, but one that deserves a much higher profile in Minnesota history: William T. Francis was a successful attorney who became a corruption-fighting U.S. ambassador to Liberia, while his wife, Nellie, was a leader in the battle for a woman’s right to vote — particularly an African-American woman’s — and getting Minnesota to pass an anti-lynching law.

So “Not in Our Neighborhood” is a valuable history lesson, especially in these times when so many white Minnesotans are awakening to the barriers long-erected in the paths of the state’s African-Americans. But as theater, it’s an uneven experience.

Darius Dotch, left, Carl Schoenborn and Erin Nicole Farsté are in History Theatre’s “Not In Our Neighborhood.” (Photo by Rick Spaulding)

The intermission-less, two-hour production is best when it breathes life into how housing discrimination plays out in real time, the conflict laid bare before us. But Fabel and Wood also want to make sure that you learn as much as possible about Bill and Nellie Francis, and that leads to way too much unnatural exposition, as characters stiffly stuff context into conversations for the audience’s benefit.

“Not in Our Neighborhood!” is most engaging when it gets down to the crux of the conflict, as when representatives of the Groveland Improvement Association first come to Francis’ law office to present their pro-segregation position. The play’s most involving scenes come within the St. Paul mayor’s office, where unhappy compromises are forged and it becomes clear that violence in the streets is bad for business — the business of staying in power, that is.

That’s when the energy accelerates, as the cast of nine, under the direction of Richard D. Thompson, clearly savors the opportunity to interact onstage once more after a year-and-a-half away. Among them, Darius Dotch stands out as William Francis, making a man of elegance and restraint nevertheless magnetic. Yet Nellie Francis may have actually been the far more fascinating character, judging from her work and writings. Alas, neither Erin Nicole Farste nor the script give us a strong sense of what makes Nellie tick.

While James Craven’s commanding stage presence and marvelous voice are ideal for the pastor who frames the action at William Francis’ funeral, the friction that propels the drama is driven by a pair of very strong performances: Fred Wagner’s expressive, elastic face and agitated body language are ideal for Oscar Arneson, the spokesperson for the torch-wielding mob. And Edwin Strout gets to steal the play’s best scenes as Mayor Arthur E. Nelson, charming and fast-talking his way toward the results that serve him best.

While “Not in Our Neighborhood!” is a fine teaching tool that will ideally spark conversations about why people live where they do — and why there’s such a large racial gap in homeownership in the Twin Cities — it left me wishing that the playwrights had been more willing to sacrifice some of the history to make for more compelling theater.

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Column: Trevis Gipson has a big opportunity the rest of the season to prove he can be an edge rusher the Chicago Bears can build around

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Column: Trevis Gipson has a big opportunity the rest of the season to prove he can be an edge rusher the Chicago Bears can build around

Justin Fields’ performance in the stretch run of the season will set the tone in terms of what the Chicago Bears roster looks like going forward.

Complicating that is the rib injury he suffered Nov. 21 during the aggravating 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Fields missed the Thanksgiving Day victory in Detroit and Andy Dalton is set to start again Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field.

If you are compiling a list of young players not named Fields in position to offer hope for the future, start with outside linebacker Trevis Gipson.

The 2020 fourth-round pick hasn’t gotten the attention given to wide receiver Darnell Mooney, tight end Cole Kmet, cornerback Jaylon Johnson, offensive tackles Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins or even running back Khalil Herbert, but Gipson is a player the Bears need to take a large step forward in the final six games. The others, of course, have carved out niches for themselves or are working to do that.

Gipson has flashed on occasion and now with 17 games of experience entering Sunday, it’s time for him to show if he can push for a starting position in 2022 or if he’ll be a reserve the team is looking to replace. What’s ahead for Gipson is unlimited opportunity with Khalil Mack out for the season with a left foot injury and Jeremiah Attaochu previously sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle.

The defense sacked Ravens backup quarterback Tyler Huntley six times and Gipson had one, giving him three for the season. He followed that up by punching the ball out of the clutch of Lions quarterback Jared Goff before securing the ball.

There’s no way to overstate what the remainder of the season means to him. The stakes are raised and he knows it.

“It promises me a lot of opportunities,” Gipson said. “But if I don’t take advantage of the first one, then the rest won’t come. I’m just focused on taking advantage of that, obviously praying for Khalil hoping he comes back healthy.”

The Bears have Mack, 30, under contract through 2024 and while they could create $6 million in salary cap savings during the offseason by moving on from the six-time Pro Bowl selection, a long conversation would need to be had before heading down that path. Multiple restructures of his contract have driven up his 2022 cap hit to $30.15 million. The Bears would have a $24 million cap hit without Mack, so for the difference of $6 million he could anchor the defense for another season unless the team gets more in a trade than most imagine he’d bring.

Robert Quinn was named NFC defensive player of the month for November for having 5½ of his 11 sacks and he has become everything the Bears hoped he would be last season. The 31-year-old is set to earn $12.9 million in 2022. If the Bears have a roster in transition next season, it’s difficult to imagine they will pay two pass rushers over the age of 30, but that decision is a couple months off.

The franchise has spent two decades paying for pass rushers. Since 2000, only two drafted edge rushers have produced eight sacks in a season. Rosevelt Colvin, a fourth-round pick in 1999, had 10½ sacks in 2001 and 2002 before exiting in free agency. Mark Anderson, a fifth-round pick in 2006, had 12 sacks as a rookie but only 9½ in his next 50 games before being released in 2010.

The Bears consistently have paid players to spearhead the pass rush, acquiring and then extending players such as Phillip Daniels, Adewale Ogunleye, Julius Peppers, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee, Mack and most recently Quinn. Young was the best value addition of the group by former general manager Phil Emery and most of the players on that list provided what the Bears were seeking. But it’s an expensive proposition to buy a pass rush, and time and again it has limited the organization from adding key offensive pieces.

The Bears were without a pick in the fourth round of the 2020 draft when Gipson was sitting on the board. The Bears deemed him worth getting, leading to a rare in-division trade with the Minnesota Vikings to add a pick and select him.

With a shortened training camp and no preseason during his rookie season, he made a slow adjustment to playing on his feet and not with a hand in the dirt as a defensive end like he was accustomed to at Tulsa. Gipson showed progress this summer and now he’s getting more action than he could have expected with Quinn missing time because of COVID-19 and Mack sidelined.

Gipson has been on the field for 48% of the defensive snaps but has been at 69% over the last five games. He has shown the ability to defeat pass blockers and needs to do it on a more consistent basis with five tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and the recovery against Goff.

Here’s a look at his three sacks this season.

Week 4 vs. Lions

Gipson does a really nice job of setting up Lions’ first-round pick Penei Sewell, starting at left tackle in place of Taylor Decker, by taking him vertically upfield off the ball. Gipson forces Sewell to widen in his set, opening the door to beat him inside. It’s a schemed one-on-one, a simulated pressure from the Bears bringing three to that side. The left guard has to account for blitzing linebacker Roquan Smith, the back is releasing because it’s only a four-man rush, so it’s a true one-on-one versus Sewell. Gipson makes him set vertically and then goes to the inside with a quick swim move, pins the inside arm of Sewell to remove it and beats him. It’s a good athletic play. Goff feels the pressure and tries to spin out but Gipson is in position to get him down.

Week 5 at Raiders

Las Vegas goes with max protection using 12-personnel to take a play-action shot downfield with a two-man route. The Bears are only rushing four and the Raiders have eight in to block, but because of the way the line is sliding Gipson gets a one-on-one versus tight end Foster Moreau. This isa power move with active hands. Moreau trips a little bit but not until after Gipson is bending him back to create a path to the quarterback. He shows the burst to close on Derek Carr.

Week 11 vs. Ravens

Coming out of a two-point stance on the defensive left side, Gipson wins with a classic pass rush move. Right tackle Patrick Mekari sets deep in the second-and-15 situation. Gipson presses Mekari upfield and forces him to open his hips. This creates a situation in which Gipson has to bend, turn the corner and flatten to get to Huntley, preventing Mekari from running him upfield. Gipson does a good job dropping his anchor and bending, he has to rip, change levels and get through Mekari and he does a good job to get home to Huntley.

The signs are there that Gipson has the ability. The Bears have a major hole without Mack, something defensive coordinator Sean Desai has to scheme around on a weekly basis. That’s not a knock on Gipson, who is getting the chance to evolve his game.

“It’s a great opportunity given where that room is going,” Desai said. “He is continuing to develop. You’ve seen spurts of him getting better with his hands at the point of attack, his conversions in the pass rush, stuff that (outside linebackers coach Bill) Shuey has been working on and emphasizing with him. He’s straining his body and mind to try to improve on those.

“And it’s still a process. He’s not where he wants to be and I don’t think he’s where we want him to be. But he’s still a young player who hasn’t played a lot of football snaps in this league. We’ve got to make sure that we develop him and build him up to our standard.”

If Gipson plays well — if he can begin accumulating more impact plays — the Bears can gain confidence that a young player is beginning to ascend. If not, they’re going to have to continue paying top dollar, one way or another, for edge rushers.

Scouting report

Budda Baker, Cardinals free safety

Information for this report was obtained from NFL scouts.

Budda Baker, 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, is in his fifth season in Arizona after the Cardinals made him a second-round pick in 2017 out of Washington. Baker, a captain, is fourth on the defense with 41 solo tackles and has two interceptions and three pass breakups.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection (once on special teams), the Cardinals extended Baker before the start of the 2020 season, a deal that places him fourth among safeties in the league with an annual average of $14.75 million, just above the Bears’ Eddie Jackson.

“They’ve been mixing man and zone this season but the last few weeks they’ve been more zone heavy,” the scout said. “That could be based on tendency and who they are playing against. They’ve been good on both. That was a big concern about this team coming into the season, did they have the corners to play as much man because (coordinator) Vance Joseph is a heavy man-pressure coach, but they’ve done that and Budda Baker really helps them do both.

“It’s not always perfect with him but he plays with urgency. He’s at top speed all the time and he is a game changer for them because he can fill the alley versus the run, he can blitz, check tight ends and he can drive top down on the ball. He’s got enough range to spin him to the post. He’s got multidimensional traits but when you turn on the tape, the thing that always jumps out is he’s playing faster than everyone else.

“Everyone in the NFL can run so why is this guy always a step ahead of everyone? I think he sees it faster than everyone else and when he goes there, if you’re a ball carrier, he’s going to thump you too. He’s an excellent tackler, he’s a good tackler in space and what he ultimately is for Arizona is a tone setter. If you’re a wide receiver coming across the middle of the field or a running back bouncing the ball outside the tackles, you better get your pads low.

“He doesn’t have the same playmaking traits of Eddie Jackson or the same fluid range, but his lateral speed is better and his closing speed is better and he’s more than a willing tackler. He wants to drop the hammer. You can build a secondary around that. He dictates the tempo of the game.”

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5 things to watch for as the Chicago Bears play host to the Arizona Cardinals, including Kyler Murray’s potential return and a crowd on edge — plus our Week 13 predictions

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5 things to watch for as the Chicago Bears play host to the Arizona Cardinals, including Kyler Murray’s potential return and a crowd on edge — plus our Week 13 predictions

Chicago Bears quarterback Andy Dalton will start his second straight game in place of Justin Fields on Sunday as the Bears host the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field.

As Fields recovers from broken ribs, Dalton will try to push the Bears to a second straight win against a much more difficult opponent than the winless Detroit Lions team he beat last week.

As kickoff approaches, here’s our snapshot look at the game.

Chicago Bears (4-7) vs. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)

  • Kickoff: Noon Sunday at Soldier Field.
  • TV and radio: FOX-32, WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9, WRTO-AM 1200 (Spanish).
  • The line: Cardinals by 7½. Over/under: 43½.
  • Sign up now to get Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts first

1. Player in the spotlight

The Cardinals declared quarterback Kyler Murray questionable to play Sunday in what would be his first game since Oct. 28 because of a left ankle injury. Coach Kliff Kingsbury called Murray a game-day decision — one that could drastically affect what the Bears are facing.

In eight games before his injury, Murray threw for 2,276 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions for a 110.4 passer rating and rushed for 147 yards. Colt McCoy, who started the last three games and went 2-1 in place of Murray, has thrown for 684 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

“Obviously (Murray) presents as a really good leader on tape,” Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “There’s not many mistakes happening. He’s got command of the offense. He can obviously beat you with his arm strength and with his feet.

“He’s becoming, in my opinion, a much more patient passer in the pocket where he’ll scramble to throw, and it’s dangerous because as a coverage guy, you’re kind of nervous. Is the guy going to throw it or is he going to run it? Because he’s a fast guy and he can still make you miss in the open field, and you see that on tape.”

Desai said the Cardinals are “distributing the ball over the place,” with five players with 30 catches or more, including Christian Kirk, who leads the team with 49 receptions for 628 yards. DeAndre Hopkins, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, will also be a game-day decision.

“(Hopkins) is still the No. 1 target, as he should be,” Desai said. “He’s earned that respect around the league with his play, but they’re getting all those guys the ball in a variety of different ways. They’re getting them the ball in space, they’re getting them the ball over the top, they’re getting them the ball underneath, a lot of different ways. … Kyler’s doing a good job playing that point guard as the quarterback and getting the ball out and getting it to different people, extending plays when he needs to extend them and then taking his shots downfield when he needs to take the shots downfield.”

2. Pressing question

What can the Andy Dalton-led Bears do against one of the NFL’s top pass defenses?

Dalton and the Bears offense chewed up the final 8 minutes, 30 seconds of the Thanksgiving game against the Lions to set up Cairo Santos’ winning 28-yard field goal, and Dalton finished with 317 passing yards and a touchdown.

But that was against the Lions.

The Cardinals allow just 204 passing yards per game and 6.1 passing yards per play, both ranked fourth in the NFL. They have 29 sacks this season, led by Markus Golden’s 10 and Chandler Jones’ eight.

“They have some violent pass rushers that can do a lot of things,” Bears right tackle Larry Borom said. “Both Golden and Jones, they can bend. Their speed, power. A magnificent amount of weapons they have.”

Dalton said he needs to be aware of playing on time against the Cardinals’ pass rushers.

“Because if you think you can hold on to it for a little bit longer, that’s when bad things can happen,” Dalton said. “So they do have a good rush, and for me, it starts with playing on time and making sure I’m decisive with what I’m doing.”

The Bears might be able to lean on David Montgomery, who rushed for 46 yards against the Lions, against a Cardinals rush defense that hasn’t been quite as good.

3. Keep an eye on …

Bears wide receiver Marquise Goodwin has been declared out because of foot and ribs injuries, and top receiver Allen Robinson is doubtful to play because of a hamstring injury. That leaves the Bears with only one wide receiver on the field with more than 10 catches this season.

Darnell Mooney has put together back-to-back games with more than 120 yards receiving to bring his total to 46 catches for 694 yards and three touchdowns. But beyond him, the only Bears receivers with catches this season are Damiere Byrd (nine catches, 74 yards) and Jakeem Grant (three catches, 31 yards).

That presents obvious challenges for the coaching staff as it tries to prepare for the stout Cardinals defense.

“The question is, OK, if (a player) can’t go, does the guy who practiced it Wednesday take over and you still call it? Or do you just bag it because it’s really just built for that one guy?” Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “There’s a little bit of both. You try to build as much as you can that the replacement can do it. But to me, that’s a challenge of when guys are questionable. Everybody wants to know, is he going to play, is he practicing, how much is he practicing? As coaches, we want to know that, too, because we’ve got tonight and then we’ve got to plan the next day.”

Playing a big role Sunday could be the Bears tight ends, including Cole Kmet, who practiced in full Friday after recovering from a groin injury. Nagy also pointed to Byrd, who is in his sixth NFL season, as a player who has been “under the radar” this season.

“He hasn’t had a lot of catches, but he helps us out so much in so many different ways,” Nagy said. “So he’s going to have a much bigger role. And then some of these other guys, too, as well, they understand the importance.”

4. Odds and ends

It would certainly help the Bears’ cause to get ahead early against the Cardinals, in part to appease fans who have voiced their discontent over this 4-7 season with booing and “Fire Nagy!” chants.

Bears safety Eddie Jackson said earlier this week that such chants aren’t helping matters. When asked his thoughts on it Friday, Nagy said he can’t let it be a distraction.

“I have the ultimate respect for our fans and our city, just everybody,” Nagy said. “I understand the game. I understand what everyone wants with the wins. … But I would not be doing my job (if) that would be a distraction. I’m here to lead these guys to a win and to help out, and that’s all I can do. I understand the competitiveness and the fight and the love and the passion that this city has. I understand it. At the same time, that is a distraction for us. We want to go out there and do everything we can to win for everybody.”

5. Injury report

With Fields unlikely to play because of a ribs injury — Nagy declared Dalton the starter and Nick Foles the backup — the status of inside linebacker Roquan Smith is the thing to watch here.

Smith missed practices Wednesday and Thursday with a hamstring injury but returned in a limited capacity Friday. Nagy called him a game-time decision.

“He’s getting close is what I would say,” Nagy said. “We’ll get him out there and see what happens and where he’s at. He’s a guy that he’s going do everything he possibly can to be able to get ready to play.”

Fields is listed as doubtful, as is Robinson. The Bears already declared out Goodwin, defensive linemen Akiem Hicks (ankle) and Mario Edwards Jr. (ribs) and running back Damien Williams (calf).

The Bears are expected to activate rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins, who missed the first 11 games after undergoing back surgery. Nagy has indicated Jenkins will back up Jason Peters and Larry Borom.

For the Cardinals, safety James Wiggins (knee) was ruled out, while cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (foot) and left guard Justin Pugh (calf) are questionable along with Murray and Hopkins.

Predictions

Brad Biggs (9-2)

The Bears were able to change the vibe at Halas Hall by ending their five-game losing streak with a victory at Detroit. To maintain hope that there is something to play for, they cannot fall further behind the five teams one game ahead of them in the win column in the NFC, making this game critical. The Cardinals enter with the best record in the NFL and they’re 6-0 on the road where they’ve been blowing opponents out, averaging 32.8 points per game. The Bears have been struggling to score more than half that much. With Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins expected back after missing three games with injuries, the Bears are in a tough spot.

Cardinals 28, Bears 17

Colleen Kane (10-1)

This looks like a tough matchup for the Bears on both sides of the ball, especially if Murray plays for the first time since Week 8. Even if Murray is a little rusty, the Bears will have their hands full with a quarterback who boasts a 110.4 passer rating. The Bears might find some success on offense behind running back David Montgomery on what is forecast to be a cold, rainy day. But with a depleted wide receivers corps, the Bears and Andy Dalton could find it tough to get much going in the passing game. In their last couple of losses, the Bears kept it close, but there’s potential for an ugly one here.

Cardinals 27, Bears 16

Dan Wiederer (10-1)

In a battle between one of the NFL’s top-five scoring offenses and one of the league’s bottom five, the odds are stacked against Matt Nagy’s team. The Bears will have to play a near-perfect game Sunday to pull off an upset. But with ongoing injury issues, the Bears are way too short-handed on both sides of the ball to either limit the Cardinals explosive offense or keep up with it.

Cardinals 27, Bears 13

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TubaChristmas, Boulder’s Freezie Fest, free Hallmark cards and more cheap deals in December

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TubaChristmas, Boulder’s Freezie Fest, free Hallmark cards and more cheap deals in December

National Cookie Day

Cookie lovers will like “the way the cookie crumbles” on National Cookie Day. From Dec. 3 to 5, Insomnia Cookies is offering three sweet specials to celebrate the day. Anyone can stop by for a free Classic Cookie of their choice – no purchase necessary. (The offer also applies to delivery orders placed on its site. However, a $6 delivery minimum applies.) Plus, “cookie monsters” can enjoy a 12-pack of Classic Cookies for $15 or four-pack of Deluxe Cookies for $10. And, finally, members of the shop’s CookieMagic club enjoy a free six-pack of cookies. Even sweeter, through Dec. 31, new club members get their first month at no cost with promo code SWEETMAGIC. There are four shops in Colorado — Boulder, Denver (2) and Ft. Collins. insomniacookies.com

Target gift cards

Target is at the top of the list for many holiday shoppers and its gift cards are highly-coveted. However, bargain hunters know it’s nearly impossible to get a discount on the cards. That’s why this weekend special is right on target for savings. On Dec. 4 and 5, get 10 percent off Target gift cards in-store or online — up to $500. If you buy the maximum allowed, it’s a savings of $50. The offer is only available through the store’s loyalty program, Target Circle, as you must add the digital offer to your account. The one-time-use discount is only valid for a single transaction, so make sure all of the gift cards (in whatever denominations) are purchased at the same time. target.com

Santa PetSmart

Meow-y Christmas! Santa Claus even knows when furry family members have been naughty or nice. And, because they’re family, pet parents have to include them in all of the holiday traditions, including sitting on the big jolly guy’s lap. Four-legged family members can get a complimentary photo with Santa at PetSmart on Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 — from noon to 3 p.m. each day. Schedule an appointment at petsmart.com/2021-photos-with-santa.html. Photos can be taken on your personal device or on a store device. If you choose the latter, the photo will be delivered via e-mail. For added fun, download the PetSmart app to use themed photo filters. petsmart.com

Holiday Ice Show

Ice is nice, especially when it’s a beautiful Holiday Ice Show and at the right price for budget-minded families: Free. Figure skaters present three shows at South Suburban Sports Complex and Family Sports Center on Dec. 10, 11 and 12. Skaters perform to traditional holiday music and Santa makes an appearance at the finale. Admission is free. Performances are at South Suburban (6580 S. Vine St.) in Centennial on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 3:15 p.m. Then, on Dec. 12, at Family Sports (6901 S. Peoria St.) at 3:15 p.m. If you’re in the holiday spirit, bring some nonperishable items to any performance for donation to SECOR Food Pantry. ssprd.org

Boulder’s Freezie Fest

Celebrate winter and all things snowmen in Downtown Boulder. This year’s annual Freezie Fest (1300 Pearl St.) is on Dec. 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy visits with Santa, train rides on the Snowflake Express and loads of holiday crafts and activities along the Pearl Street Mall and beyond. Admission is free. It’s designed for kids ages 12 and under, but those of all ages can chill out and enjoy the family-friendly event. While you’re there, check out the creative and festive window displays at select Downtown Boulder businesses. They’re competing to be crowned “best in show”, as part of the shopping district’s annual holiday window display contest. boulderdowntown.com

McDonald’s Holiday Giveaway

McDonald’s and superstar performer Mariah Carey are making the holidays merrier by unwrapping a daily deal with their 12 Days of McDonald’s Deals. The fast-food giant is giving away the pop icon’s favorite menu items daily through its app – The Mariah Menu. From Dec. 13 to 24, customers can enjoy a different menu item for free each day with a $1 minimum purchase.

Here’s what’s on the menu:

  • Dec. 13 – Big Mac
  • Dec. 14 – McChicken
  • Dec. 15 – bakery item
  • Dec. 16 – Chicken McNuggets (6-piece)
  • Dec. 17 – cheeseburger
  • Dec. 18 – Hotcakes
  • Dec. 19 – McDouble
  • Dec. 20 – apple pie
  • Dec. 21 – Sausage McMuffin with Egg
  • Dec. 22 – double cheeseburger
  • Dec. 23 – sausage biscuit
  • Dec. 24 – chocolate chip cookies (2- or 3-pack.)

The giveaway is only available via a digital offer in the McDonald’s app – not in-restaurant. Our tip: The least expensive menu item for the additional purchase requirement is a fountain drink (any size), which sells for just one dollar. mcdonalds.com

Golden Character Meet & Greet

Spend a magical day in Golden meeting and mingling with family-favorite holiday characters along Washington Avenue. “Jingle On The Avenue, A Holiday Character Mingle” is set for Dec. 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Little ones are sure to be delighted and there will be plenty of photo opportunities (perfect for social media), live music and lots of festive holiday fun for the whole family. Enjoy complimentary horse-drawn carriage rides, meet-and-greets with characters, Newfoundland dog cart rides and hay wagon rides with Santa. visitgolden.com

TubaChristmas

Up to 300 tubas, euphoniums and other low-register brass instruments spread holiday cheer on Dec. 19 at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The music is in the air from 11 a.m. to noon. It’s all part of TubaChristmas 2021, a nationwide series of free concerts performed by local, volunteer musicians. This marks the 47th year for Denver’s participation. The “orchestra” assembles only hours before show time to rehearse its “heavy metal” tunes. Afterward, jump on the free 16th Street Mall shuttle and explore downtown for holiday shopping and more festive fun. Thankfully the event is on Sunday because metered parking is free in Denver. tubachristmas.com

Wendy’s Key Tag

This annual offer from Wendy’s will leave hungry bargain hunters a little chilly…er, frosty. If you like to top off your burger and fries with something sweet, you will definitely want to snag Wendy’s Frosty Key Tag. For just $2, the key tag unlocks a free Jr. Frosty with any purchase, every time you visit the fast-food restaurant in 2022. The cool deal pays for itself in just a few visits, given a Jr. Frosty regularly sells for $1.49. The tags are available for purchase in-restaurant and online through Jan. 31. You can also buy a digital key tag via its app. Sweetest of all, 85 percent of the proceeds benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. wendys.com

Hallmark Free Card

These days receiving a greeting card in your mailbox is extra special. However, sending one requires a little time and effort. Hallmark has the solution with its Sign & Send option. All that’s required is just a few taps, swipes and clicks from your smartphone. Shop online for the same Hallmark cards you’d find in-store. Add your personal message by uploading your handwritten note to be printed inside the card. Then, Hallmark stamps and mails it. Through Dec. 31, Crown Rewards members can send one of the personalized greeting cards for free with promo code SIGNANDSEND. The offer is only valid on eligible greeting cards at Hallmark.com and requires U.S. billing and mailing addresses. hallmark.com

Recycle Holiday Lights

Do you have broken, burned-out or impossibly tangled sets of holiday lights? Don’t toss them, recycle instead for free. Thanks to the City of Denver’s recycling program, locals can recycle holiday lights from Dec. 6 to Jan. 8, 2022, at two locations. Light strings and wires for incandescent, LED and “icicle” lights are all acceptable. However, bubble (liquid-filled) and neon lights are not. Drop off your unwanted or broken holiday lights at Cherry Creek Recycling Drop-Off (7400 Cherry Creek S. Dr.) or Blue Star Recyclers (953 Decatur St.). Hours vary by location, so check first before making plans. Once you’ve recycled your lights, get ready to light up next year by shopping big box store holiday clearance sales that start Dec. 26. denvergov.org

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