Sure, the 2002 Winter Olympics are about sports, but they're also about entertainment.

Big-name bands come in every night to play at the Olympic Medals Plaza, others come to town for private parties.

But what about the small-name, or even the no-name, entertainers?

All over downtown Salt Lake City, would-be performers are taking their chances on making some money, selling their CDs or spreading their messages to the masses.

A trio of young men sing a capella near The Gateway on 400 West, a guitar case open to collect donations. A Peruvian band performs outside the Visitor Information Services center on Main Street, another open guitar case at their feet. A nonprofit Christian group makes balloon animals for passers-by. Rather than take tips, these volunteers hand out information on their group.

Andrew Baerlocher, under the stage name is "Ojasa," performs "fire-manipulation acts" nearly every night on a busy stretch of West Temple.

Although he is mainly a magician, Baerlocher knows his fire tricks will draw the biggest crowd.

"At night, people don't stop to watch a card trick. But they do stop to watch a guy on fire," he says.

And they do stop. And they watch, amazed that anyone can do what Baerlocher does. He lights up the sky with his tricks, consuming burning sticks and blowing balls of fire into the night air.

Big crowds don't necessarily bring big tips. In fact, things got so bad Saturday night that Baerlocher left his post and made a sign informing onlookers their contributions are appreciated.

It hasn't helped much.

"It's Utah," he says, shrugging. "People don't really know how to tip."

Baerlocher declined to say how much he takes in on an average night.

During the day, Baerlocher is a University of Utah student and employee at Showplace Magic and Novelty in Crossroads Mall. He has practiced his fire tricks for two years now, after learning from his mentor, a magician named Kep!

Baerlocher is careful to warn people not to imitate what he does.

"You must find someone to teach you on this," he says. "Otherwise it could be deadly."

The Olympics have given Baerlocher a chance to show off his skills on a worldwide stage. He readily gives out his phone number and e-mail address, 913-1384, ojasa1089@hotmail.com , to anyone who may be interested in a private party, and says he has talked to many private club owners about performing for them after the Games.

Entertainment isn't limited inside Salt Lake Olympic Square, either.

A snowflake-shaped stage hosts performers throughout the day, and countless others wander among the some 50,000 daily visitors.

The shows, set up by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, lend an air of Disney World to the nearly eight-block area.

The Giauque sisters of Salt Lake County are the "Emergency Hot Chocolate Brigade." They mingle with crowd members in their capes, stage makeup and curly wigs, mugs of plastic hot chocolate (complete with mini-marshmallows) carefully balanced atop their heads.

The original idea was to pass out hot cocoa to chilly spectators, but as Jenny Giauque says, "We ran into a little problem with the health department. So for now we just sing."

And have their pictures taken a lot, the women say.

"It's fun for a lot of people," Jenny Giauque says. "People really love the teacups."

Down the street a little ways, to the delight of a small crowd braving the shaded area around the "Celebration Stage," 85-year-old Jane Petty performs a solo to a country dance song.

The Provo woman is a member of "Jean's Golden Girls," a Utah Valley dance troupe of women 45 to 85 years old. Decked out in black cowboy hats adorned with gold sequin, and gold lame vests with black fringe, the women break into a rousing dance set to the unforgettable song, "Who Let the Dogs Out?"

Crowd members laugh and applaud before moving on to whatever entertaining thing may be waiting around the next corner.

It is the Olympics, after all.

E-MAIL: awelling@desnews.com