Growing up in the Midwest I always thought of early February as a rather blah time for my birthday. It was just another gray day in the middle of a cold, damp winter - way too late to take its place in the festive world of December holidays. Mother tried her best to give my birthday parties a Valentine's theme, with heart-shaped cake and all, but on Feb. 4 it just didn't quite cut it.

Since I moved to Tucson, however, things have improved. Now my birthday is part of a February fiesta in Tucson that this year even topped itself.

To name just a few local events that made Tucson in February a great place to celebrate this year:

• The gem show. Lover of jewelry that I am, I can rarely resist a look at the wondrous things created from the marriage of man/woman and treasures of the earth. I don't need a thing, which is never an excuse for a women not to indulge in a little luxury. However, a quick reminder to myself that I have only worn a few new pieces of costume jewelry puts things in perspective.

Even so, I found it relaxing and invigorating to window shop along the frontage road downtown, dazzled by creations from around the world, such as a clear aquamarine pendant accented with diamonds - aquamarine for the Aquarian. I liked the alliteration but not the price: $9,000. Or how about an amethyst pendant (my birthstone) going for much less. "Emotional Barbara" pleaded, "Please, pretty please" but received a quick rebuttal from "rational Barbara."

• The Fiesta de los Vaqueros, or as we Tucson denizens simply call it, The Rodeo. I haven't gotten to a rodeo since I moved here well over 30 years ago, but the event still adds a lot of local color to our city and a much-needed boost in tourism.

The highlight of the parade was to see video on television of the grand marshals: former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, smiling and waving to the crowd.

• The Accenture Match Play Championship. I appreciate the event being held again in the Tucson region this year, even though my knowledge of the game and players could be contained on, well, the tip of a golf ball.

I had to laugh at my ignorance after hearing one local newscaster say before the match that a "tiger" had been spotted in the area. My first thought was, oh my, I can believe in the sighting of javelinas, coyotes, maybe even a mountain lion or two … but a tiger? Suddenly I realized he was talking about Tiger Woods - not a real tiger.

• The icing on the cake was the late-month snowstorm that caught us all off-guard. Yes, we'd heard the weather reports on the 19th, but once we saw tons of white flakes swirling around on the 20th, our city became a winter wonderland. Young and old alike had noses pressed to the windowpane.

To me it felt like being in the Alps, but with all the comforts of home. I even allowed myself to daydream that maybe this aberrant weather is a precursor of a summer with temps in the 70s.

Thanks to February in Tucson, I'll be OK with my next birthday - even if I do see another wrinkle or two.

On StarNet: Read Barbara Russek's recent columns at azstarnet.com/ barbararussek

E-mail Barbara Russek at Babette2@comcast.net