There's a lot of great events going on throughout the weekend in Monterey County! For the artistic crowd, nothing could be better than the Carmel Art Festival, which runs from Thursday through Sunday. Painters duke it out mano a mano in the plein air competition (no body-checking, guys), plus there's lectures, receptions, gallery events, an outdoor art show at Devendorf Park in Carmel, and more. Only in Monterey County would the county fair have both bull-riding and a wine competition! The Salinas Valley Fair, which also runs from Thursday through Sunday, features live music, a craft and 4-H exhibit, and a carnival as well as bull-riding and the Monterey Wine Competition Grand Wine Tasting. Castroville Artichoke Festival '07 Castroville Artichoke Festival by kthrynileen Celebrate all things artichoke at the Castroville Artichoke Festival on Saturday and Sunday. In addition to artichokes in every way you can eat them (artichoke burritos? Check! Artichoke muffins? Check! Artichoke ice cream? Check!) there's cooking demos, wine tasting, arts and crafts, a farmers market, tours of the artichoke fields, live music on three stages, and a parade. The most interesting event may be the Agro Art competition, in which teams build amazing artistic creations from fruits and vegetables. Friday See one of the future's great classical voices for free at the Sunset Center tonight. Devon Guthrie, winner of the 2009 Carmel Music Society annual vocal competition, performs selections from Strauss, Debussy, Mozart, and more. Pianist Nathan Brandwein will accompany her. 8pm, San Carlos St. at 9th Avenue in Carmel, free. Get a thrashtastic start to your weekend at Jose's, with metal bands Hysteria, Praetorian, Gorphyryac and Miseria. 8pm, 638 Wave St. Monterey, $5. Saturday A familiar sight A familiar sight by tsallam Take a rare tour of highly restricted Palo Corona Park with an expert biologist, and learn all about the breeding and migration habits of the area's birds. The MPRPD offers this great "Wild Adventure at Palo Corona." 8:30am-1pm, Palo Corona Park in Carmel, $22 ($2 discount for MPRPD residents). Register online, click on "Teen to Adult Explorations" and then "Wild Adventure at Palo Corona." The greatest young pianists in California, Oregon and Washington compete for the Carmel Music Society's award at the Sunset Center San Carlos St. at 9th Avenue in Carmel. Finalists will perform from 10am to noon and 1:30 to 3:30pm; the three prize winners will perform at 8pm. Free. Watch firefighters strut their stuff and compete for accolades at the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade Muster at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The brigade competes against other area fire crews in a battle to see who's the best. 11am-4pm, $12/adults, $6/children under 12. Taste limited-release wines and rare vintages at the fourth annual Santa Lucia Highlands winegrowers' gala, A Highlands Fling. This year's event takes place at Hahn Estates and features nearly 30 wineries, as well as fine hors d'oeuvres. 2-5pm. 37700 Foothill Road, Soledad. $85; purchase tickets on the official website. EARS (the Elephants of Africa Rescue Society) hosts a fantastic fundraising gala, "Passport to Italy," at Vision Quest Ranch, on River Road in Salinas. The event includes complimentary award-winning wine, a no-host full bar, a full dinner, live music, and a special presentation by EARS. 4:30pm-late, Vision Quest Ranch, $125 per person, call 831-455-2447 to reserve. Fernwood Resort becomes Deadhead central tonight when Grateful Dead tribute band The China Cats takes the stage. 9pm, Highway One in Big Sur, no cover. Sunday Tour Monterey's historic homes and gardens and get the inside scoop on the area's legendary past from an expert. Historian Monica Hudson leads the tour offered by the MPRPD. 12:30pm-2:30pm, downtown Monterey, $11 ($1 off for MPRPD district residents). Register online at the official MPRPD site; click on "Family Discoveries" and then "Lifestyles of Monterey's Past." Local jazz/rock trio Andreas Fault plays the Big Sur River Inn. 1-5pm, Highway One in Big Sur, no cover. It's a monster-MONSTER-MONSTER!!! Sunday at the Salinas Sports Complex with Monster Jam 2010! Watch Grave Digger (in video above), Maximum Destruction, The Patriot, Tropical Thunder, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Bounty Hunter, Obsessed, Blue Thunder, Shocker and Superman tear up the Salinas Sports Complex. Plus, the Pit Party is free and open to the public! Gates open at noon; show time and the Pit Party start at 2pm. 1034 N. Main St., Salinas; parking is off N. Main St. and Maryal Drive. Buy tickets online at the official website.