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Your weekly guide to Houston: Five (plus) don't-miss events — including iFest's comeback down under

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2 Houston Design Fair kick-off party April 2013 crowd venue
Lawndale Art Center's Design Fair spotlights furniture, glass, ceramics, lighting, books, metalwork and fashion. Photo by © Chinh Phan/CultureMapSNAP.com
44th Annual Houston International Festival (iFest) honoring Australia
iFest returns with a two-weekend event that centers on Australia. Courtesy photo
San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment
The family-friendly San Jacinto Day Festival includes what organizers promise is the largest battle reenactment in the state. Courtesy of Courtesy photo
Bridgeland's Seventh Annual Nature Fest
Bridgeland's Seventh Annual Nature Fest features camel rides, a petting zoo, canoes and kayaks plus animal encounters. Courtesy of Bridgeland
Brilliant Lecture Series presents "A Conversation with Bette Midler"
The Brilliant Lecture Series hosts Midler for a conversation followed by an audience question-and-answer session. Photo by Jonathan Pushnik
2 Houston Design Fair kick-off party April 2013 crowd venue
44th Annual Houston International Festival (iFest) honoring Australia
San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment
Bridgeland's Seventh Annual Nature Fest
Brilliant Lecture Series presents "A Conversation with Bette Midler"
Joel Luks, head shot, column mug, April 2013

On tap this week are a three-day shopping bash, a global fair of culture, a decisive battle reenactment, a nature festival in suburbia and an appearance from a chanteuse who's been the wing beneath your wings for many, many years. 

Lawndale Art Center's Design Fair 2014 "Learn. Shop. Connect."

You could say that Lawndale Art Center's Design Fair is like a box of chocolates — because you never know what you're going to find. From a mid-century modern chaise to a repurposed lighting fixture, the collection, this year curated by Tatiana Bacci and Cecilia Márquezof, includes furniture, glass, ceramics, lighting, books, metalwork and fashion in an assemblage that never fails to surprise design savvy consumers.

Begin the three-day shopping bender at the preview party on Friday, which offers first dibs on the goods. The fair continues on Saturday and Sunday. New this year are educational talks that spotlight design ventures around Houston.

The skinny: Preview party is Friday, 6-9 p.m.; Lawndale Art Center; tickets start at $60. Fair is Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Lawndale Art Center; $5 admission.

44th Annual Houston International Festival (iFest) honoring Australia

It has been a trying year for the Houston International Foundation. When officials decided to terminate the execution of the Thanksgiving Day Parade and dumped the floats featured at the yearly holiday procession, the nonprofit came under attack. The decision, which was financially based, was supposed to strengthen the company so that the Houston International Festival became a better celebration of diversity and culture.

Back from down under, literally, iFest returns with a two-weekend event that centers on Australia. Mark your calendars for the barbecue cookoff on May 1 and plan to submerge yourself in Aussie love with music, food, multicultural performances, shopping and exhibits. Can't you smell the Vegemite already?

The skinny: Saturday and Sunday and May 3-4; downtown Houston; tickets start at $15 for adults, $4 for children ages 3-12. 

2014 San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment

Relive the Lone Star State's moment of glory with the events ushered its independence 178 years ago, including the pivotal 1836 Battle of San Jacinto. The family-friendly festival, which includes what organizers promise is the largest battle reenactment in the state, is filled with music, food, games, entertainment and demonstrations of what life was like during the mid 19th century.

The skinny: Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; San Jacinto Monument; free admission.

Bridgeland's Seventh Annual Nature Fest

Inner Loopers: Here's a reason to meander to infinity and beyond (meaning the suburbs). Experience the "wild" courtesy of a nature-themed day suitable for the whole family — think camel rides, a petting zoo, canoes and kayaks plus animal encounters with celebrity baboons, white tigers and other big kitties.

Overachievers have the opportunity to add a world record to their accolades if 802 or more people warble a cardinal's call for at least 10 seconds.

The skinny: Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Bridgeland’s Oak Meadow Park; free event.

Brilliant Lecture Series presents "A Conversation with Bette Midler"

Even those who claim not to be fans — you know, those who have no soul — turned the other cheek when Divine Miss M took time to sing over the phone to a 29-year-old who was dying from a rare form of cancer. The serenade was captured on a video in which you can hear Bette Midler's comforting conversation with the patient and a performance of "Wind Beneath My Wings." Any questions why the emotional footage went viral?

The Brilliant Lecture Series hosts Midler for a conversation followed by an audience question-and-answer session.

The skinny: Tuesday, 7 p.m.; Wortham Theater Center; tickets start at $45.

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