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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Sparky the dogSparky writes: Dear Cosmos, since last Saturday’s blowout extravaganza in the Organ Pavilion to celebrate the San Diego Zoo’s 100-year anniversary, my family has been all abuzz, looking for ways to extend the celebration. What can they do in addition to visiting the Zoo itself this year?

Cosmos: As Balboa Park’s intrepid doggie blogger, I’m always digging up animal-themed exhibitions, performances, and programs in the Park to write about. Fortunately, there is never any shortage of opportunities to explore all creatures great and small at the Park’s diverse cultural attractions. But this year’s slate of zoological programming is an entirely different beast. It seems almost every Balboa Park institution is getting in on the act, whether as part of its regularly scheduled programming or as a specific tie-in to honor the Zoo’s centennial. Here’s just a snapshot of what your family should make a beeline for this summer.

Bronze Puma sculpture by Arthur Putnam, courtesy of the San Diego Museum of ArtThe Lore Behind the Roar — San Diego History Center

If you are wondering how a ragtag collection of animals left behind by the 1915 Panama California Exposition became the world’s greatest zoo, right here in San Diego, then this family-friendly trip down memory lane has all the answers. Pups will enjoy the many paws-on activities, and baby boomers will go bananas over daily screenings of classic episodes of the Zoorama TV series.

Whales: Giants of the Deep — San Diego Natural History Museum

By definition, this is the biggest animal-themed exhibition in the Park this year. Life-sized models of South Pacific whales, a 58-foot sperm whale skeleton, and a life-sized replica of a blue whale heart put my measly medium-sized dog frame to shame. Later this fall, a new exhibition at the Nat titled The Machine Inside: Biomechanics will show how animal evolution is this planet’s greatest innovator.

Beauty and the Beast: The Animal in Photography – Museum of Photographic Arts

Joining the pride later this month (on May 28), this diverse photography exhibition captures the best side of many of your favorite four-legged and feathered friends, revealing the multitude of ways that animals have been featured in fine art photography.

Ferocious Bronze: The Animal Sculptures of Arthur Putnam — The San Diego Museum of Art

The largely self-taught artist Arthur Putnam cut his teeth sketching animals as a frequent visitor to zoos. He turned these into dynamic, impressionistic bronze sculptures reminiscent of Rodin. Luckily for us, the Spreckels family donated 100 of these works to the brand new Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego in 1925, 28 of which are now on view in recognition of the Zoo centennial.

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Unless you were hibernating throughout 2015, you know that Balboa Park was the place to be all last year as dozens of special programs and events celebrated the Balboa Park Centennial. What you may not realize, thousands of critters at the San Diego Zoo were champing at the bit to celebrate their own 100-year anniversary in 2016.

San Diego Zoo Centennial logo, colorful lion head graphicIn fact, a number of my four-legged friends from the Zoo will take part in the free Centennial Community Event this Saturday, May 14, at 6pm in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and Plaza de Panama. One hundred years in the making, the spectacular event will feature crafts, hands-on activities, and face painting for pups. Dr. Zoolittle will lead the crowd in setting a Guinness World Record – though the exact nature of the record is a bit unclear, so dress accordingly. The evening’s entertainment will also feature live animal presentations by Zookeeper Rick, dancers, and various musical acts.

Headlining the festivities is the Grammy- and Tony-award winning chanteuse Heather Headley who will perform in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion at 8pm with a live orchestra. (Perhaps not so coincidentally, Heather made a name for herself on Broadway playing Nala in the greatest musical ever produced, The Lion King.)

Joining the celebration, The San Diego Museum of Art and Museum of Photographic Arts will be open late and offer free admission after 5pm.

Of course, no blowout celebration honoring one of San Diego’s most iconic organizations would be complete without plenty of food trucks to feed the entire herd. Among the dozen participating food trucks will be New Orleans Food Truck, Seoul Man, Bella Vita Pizza, Sun & Sea Mexican Seafood, Slider House, and Sushi Uno. I would say “Hot dog!” except I didn’t see a single hot dog food truck on the list, though I’m sure I’ll make do.

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She pupped you and nursed you, nuzzled and cleaned you, faithfully taking you to obedience school every day. You know in your heart of hearts a lifetime of Mother’s Day greeting cards and flowers could not fully express the gratitude you feel. So what’s a fully weaned offspring to do?

Stone Lantern amid cherry blossoms in Japanese Friendship Garden, Balboa ParkA perfect Mother’s Day in Balboa Park would be a good place to start. Thanks to its numerous gardens and restaurants, world-class museums and performing arts venues, and miles of walkways through picturesque parkland, planning a Mother’s Day in Balboa Park may feel a bit daunting. To lend you a paw, I’ve come up with the following itinerary that your mother need never know came from a dog who writes a blog:

Champagne Buffet Brunch at the Prado – 10 a.m.

No Mother’s Day is Mother’s Day without a Mother’s Day Champagne Buffet Brunch. While the pancake station, chilled seafood station, dim sum station, carving station, whipped potato martini bar, and chocolate fountain may tempt families to spend the entire day at the Prado Restaurant, please note that brunch service ends at 2:30.

Art Glass Guild Show and Sale at Spanish Village – 12 p.m.

Immediately after brunch would be an ideal time to take a leash-free stroll through the Spanish Village Art Center’s courtyard to view a colorful diversity art glass made by local artists. There will also be live music and glass-making demonstrations in the patio.

Brueghel to Canaletto at The San Diego Museum of Art – 1:00 p.m.

Now’s the time to present her with that million dollar bouquet of flowers, this year in the form of exquisite still life paintings from the Golden Age of European art. Also on view as part of this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition are landscapes and other masterpieces of 17th century art.

Mother’s Day Organ Concert – 2:00 p.m.

Each year, the free Sunday organ concerts in Spreckels Organ Pavilion take on a special tone in honor of moms. This is also a great time for mom to rest her feet and show off her favorite hat.

Japanese Friendship Garden – 3:00 p.m.

No Mother’s Day visit to Balboa Park would be complete without sniffing through one of its most iconic gardens. Featuring winding paths, a Zen garden, koi pond, a bonsai exhibit, and other visual treats, the Japanese Friendship Garden presents a relaxing way to wrap up an eventful day.

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Youth actors in the Student Shakespeare Festival 2015 from Carlsbad High SchoolAs the Old Globe Theater has proven more times than anyone can count, Balboa Park offers the perfect backdrop to plays written by the world’s top-dog playwright, William Shakespeare. For those who missed last Saturday’s Bard Bash at the Globe in honor of Shakespeare’s birthday and 400-year anniversary of his passing, fear not! This Saturday, April 30, hundreds of pint-sized thespians will bring to life his greatest hits at the 11th Annual Student Shakespeare Festival.

As the flagship event of the San Diego Shakespeare Society, the Student Shakespeare Festival each year turns the spotlight on pups, K–12, in a lively competition to determine which San Diego City and County school theater group is leader of the pack when all the Prado’s a stage.

The day’s festivities begin at 12:30pm with opening ceremonies and a colorful parade of costumed participants in the Plaza de Panama. From 1 to 3:30pm, teams from various schools all over the county will “bring it” by performing bite-sized (10-minute) scenes from Shakespeare’s vast body of work, including plays, sonnets, and songs.

Two young actors perform in the Student Shakespeare Festival 2015 in Balboa ParkSeveral stages will be set up along the length of the Prado (with Balboa Park’s historic buildings providing the appropriate scenery) where families and leashed family friends can witness the Globe’s stars of tomorrow when “we knew them when.” At 3:30pm, the day’s best performances and performers will be awarded.

In an era when Shakespeare is losing ground as required reading for English majors at American colleges and universities, the Student Shakespeare Festival is a great way to expose pups of all ages to the English language’s alpha dog who is single-handedly responsible for coining thousands of words and phrases we still use today – even on Snapchat.

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Headshot of Shirley the dog, a white labradorShirley writes: Dear Cosmos, In spite of another year of below average rainfall in San Diego, I couldn’t help but notice while sniffing around recently that Balboa Park seems to stay green year round. What’s the secret?

Cosmos: There’s really no secret. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the City of San Diego Park & Recreation Department, the Balboa Park Conservancy, and the Friends of Balboa Park over the past few years, the Park has gotten a leg up on the drought by replacing water-hogging landscaping with water-wise plants and irrigation systems. And they’re just getting started. Three new projects are already underway or are shovel-ready to bring more green things to tickle your snout.

Section of the Park Boulevard Median project with drought tolerant flowering plantsPark Boulevard Median Project

The beginning of this month saw the completion of a major project to install drought-tolerant landscaping and more efficient irrigation along the Park Boulevard median. The thematic landscaping includes roses in the median near the Rose Garden, succulents near the Desert Garden, Down Under-themed flora near the Australian Garden, and African vegetation by the San Diego Zoo. The dramatic median makeover is designed to save over 500,000 gallons of water each year and 8–12 hours of maintenance labor each week.

Persian Water Carpet Garden

Though easy to oversniff, the shady garden nestled between the Casa de Balboa and House of Hospitality is getting a water-wise makeover of its own. Anchored by the elegant, low-flow “Persian Water Carpet” fountain, this garden will feature a new water-wise plant palette that includes myrtle, white rose bushes, and something you don’t see every day in the region’s public gardens, bulbs, which I have no desire to dig up now that I know they’re there. Scout’s honor.

Arbor Day Planting

Saving the best for last, I’m excited to announce the Friends of Balboa Park’s annual Arbor Day planting will bring new species of trees to the Park just west of the Pepper Grove Play Area. On April 29, with the help of second grade pups from Albert Einstein Academy Charter Elementary School, the Friends will plant 14 new California-friendly trees that follow a prehistoric theme, gingko and Wollemi pines.

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