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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Maker Faire space module with California Tower in backgroundMakers are a curious breed — and I mean that both literally and figuratively. They represent a wide range of backgrounds and interests: tech enthusiasts, gardeners, engineers, artists, scientists, crafters, and even cosplayers. But one common trait these DIYers all share is a drive to make their innovative ideas a reality, usually on their own time and in their own backyards (where I myself do some of my best work).

This weekend (October 1-2) pups of all ages can get their paws on “crazy contraptions” created by over 200 Makers from all over the country at the 2nd Annual San Diego Maker Faire. Among the featured exhibits will be drivable Cupcake Cars in the South Palisades lot; the mysterious Temple for Youtopia near the Lily Pond; an interactive virtual reality experience; the San Diego Made jewelry and craft bazaar in the South Palisades lot; the Maker Faire’s unofficial mascot, Russell, the giant electric giraffe, complete with new upgrades; and an opportunity to adopt a fairy and play with puppets in the Spanish Village Art Center.

One-of-a-kind Maker exhibits will be scattered throughout a dozen Balboa Park institutions and various outdoor exhibit areas in Balboa Park. Access to all Maker-themed activities this weekend (including admission to 10 different museums) is included in either a single-day or weekend Maker Faire pass. Families looking to save a few bones should buy their passes online by September 30.

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Brownie the dog's head, tongue outBrownie writes: Dear Cosmos, With the economy doing better, I’m no longer working like a dog for just a few measly bones every week. What’s the best way to give back for all the times I’ve taken advantage of Balboa Park’s many free amenities during leaner years?

Cosmos: It’s nice to see that every dog does have its day! You’ll be happy to hear that you don’t need to buy a new home with a bigger backyard to bury all your bones. In fact, I can come over any time to help you dig some of them up so you can put them to better use in Balboa Park — though I don’t recommend you start burying anything there.

Here are just a few ways to make an impact in the Park, which don’t all necessarily require parting with your hard-earned dough.

Balboa Park volunteers plant trees at Nate's Point dog parkDonate to the Conservancy — Would you like to see improvements at your favorite dog park? Relandscaped parkspace with plenty of drought-tolerant trees? Activated and accessible public areas for your entire pack to frolic? Historic buildings restored for your pups and their pups to enjoy? The Balboa Park Conservancy has its paw in those kinds of projects and more.

Attend Park-Wide Events — Ironically, attending the many free public events, like Halloween Family Day, Balboa Park December Nights, and the Garden Party, hosted by the Conservancy and other organizations, helps support the Park. Why? The higher the attendance, the happier the event sponsors — and the easier it is to attract new sponsors and larger commitments.

Volunteer — You don’t have to be at the top of the economic food chain to make a difference. There are hundreds of opportunities to lend a paw year-round in Balboa Park. From volunteering in the Visitors Center to helping out at your favorite museum or performing arts program, you can leave your mark without opening your wallet.

Support Park-Support Organizations — In addition to the Balboa Park Conservancy, there are a number of worthy groups that actively work to raise funds and make Balboa Park the premier cultural park in the country. Friends of Balboa Park, Patrons of the Prado, and Spreckels Organ Society are just a few of the groups that are making a difference in the Park.

Become an Arts Patron — Now that you have a few bones to throw around, you might consider visiting the Park’s museums when it’s not a free day. Better yet, buy an annual Park Explorer Pass to visit museums with your entire pack any time. You can also become a member of individual museums or a season-ticket subscriber at your favorite performing arts venues.

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Students plant tree with Mayor Kevin FaulconerWhen the conditions are right, Mother Nature generally does a great job of replenishing our world with life-giving trees. Such is not the case in our urban environment, especially where drought conditions persist. In fact, I can personally attest to San Diego’s dwindling urban forest, currently at less than a quarter of the size it should be. Why is this important? Oxygen-producing trees are essential to everyone’s health, and not just for pooches with bladder-control problems.

That’s why the Balboa Park Conservancy has teamed up with Tree San Diego, Burbank Elementary School, One San Diego, and Outdoor Foundation to teach fifth graders how to be tree stewards in Balboa Park — but they need your help!

As part of Outdoor Foundation’s national Parks-4-Kids program, a special crowdfunding page has been set up to fund this unique collaboration that will bring pups from Burbank Elementary in the park-poor Logan Heights neighborhood to Balboa Park to teach them how to plant and care for trees. The goal is to not only add new trees to Balboa Park, but to develop the fifth-grade students into inspired and capable tree stewards for the future benefit of their local community and canine-kind. In addition to tree biology and ecology, the students will learn valuable life and work skills.

The crowdfunding target amount of $8,800 will provide bus transportation, supplies, and food for 75 students who otherwise don’t get to experience school fieldtrips very often.

It would take only 880 people donating $10 to make the program a reality. Crowdfunders will get double-bang for their bones from September 24 to October 1 when the San Diego Foundation chips in to match all donations that week, up to a total of $1,000.

Donate today to help turn local fifth graders into our tree stewards of tomorrow.

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Long before Food Truck Friday began bringing a broad array of lip-smacking treats to Balboa Park visitors each week, the House of Pacific Relations had been serving up its own weekly smorgasbord of international gourmet foods at its Lawn Programs. Each Sunday afternoon at 2pm, the 34 “houses” that make up the International Cottages take turns hosting a lively cultural festival, highlighted by distinctive dishes from the hosting culture.

But just as visitors’ appetites continue to force the expansion of Food Truck Friday, the International Cottages Sunday lawn programs have expanded to include most Saturday afternoons, and even select evenings. Here is a rundown of what’s worth noshing on through the end of September. (Lawn programs continue through the end of November.)

Chinese Moon Festival drummers, House of China, Balboa ParkSept. 10 — House of China: Evening Moon Festival at the Organ Pavilion

To celebrate the Chinese mid-autumn Moon Festival, a Saturday lawn program will take over the lawn just west of the Organ Pavilion from 12 noon to 6pm, serving mooncakes, dumplings, and China’s best-kept culinary secret: jianbing (crispy-fried street crepes). This will be followed by a howling good cultural extravaganza, featuring drummers, jugglers, lion dancers, acrobats, and musicians on the Organ Pavilion Stage at 6pm.

Sept. 11 — House of Finland: Sunday Lawn Program

Following the early Chargers game on Sunday, the House of Finland will offer an excellent opportunity to celebrate, or drown your sorrows, with Finnish crepes, pastries, and other sweet comfort foods at the 2pm Sunday lawn program.

Sept. 16 — House of Mexico: Arte Color y Fiesta at the Organ Pavilion

There are festivals and then there are fiestas! Families can celebrate Mexican Independence Day with ballet folklorico and mariachis at a special Friday night event beginning at 6:30pm in the Organ Pavilion. The House of Mexico will then host the Sunday, Sept. 18, lawn program at 2pm.

Sept. 17 — House of Korea: Honoring Korean War Veterans - Sunday Lawn Program

The House of Korea will honor veterans of the Korean War with food, music, and ceremonial presentations at this special Saturday lawn program from 12 noon to 3pm. Just when you thought there was no such thing as a free lunch, all Korean War veterans will be served a free lunch at the House of Korea Pavilion. View the event flyer to learn more. Be sure to bring your dog tags!

Sept. 25 — House of Germany: Sunday Lawn Program

Bratwurst, sauerkraut, and apfelstrudel offer the perfect accompaniment to the House of Germany Choir and other musical performers in celebration of the Unification of Germany (October 3, 1990), aka Oktoberfest!

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With all the pups back in school already, Labor Day weekend is no longer the summer swansong it used to be. Not surprisingly, Labor Day weekend is now the least-traveled holiday period of the year, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California. None of that of course changes the fact that we have a three-day weekend coming up, and it still feels like summer (at least I’m still shedding like it is). This means that families will need to find plenty of cool things to do this weekend that don’t involve long road trips.

Here are just a few suggestions of cool, fun things happening in your own backyard, a.k.a. Balboa Park:

Starsky and Hutch's 1975 red Grand Torino from the Star Cars exhibitionNational Parks

What if I told you it’s possible to visit many of our country’s National Parks without leaving the city limits? The spectacular IMAX film National Parks Adventure at the Fleet Science Center and the exhibition America's Cathedrals: Photography and the National Parks at the Museum of Photographic Arts transport visitors to some of the most majestic natural landmarks in the world to honor the 100-year anniversary of the National Parks system.

Science Fiction, Science Future

Also at the Fleet Science Center, families can learn the science behind the fiction of their favorite science fiction movies without sneaking onto a Hollywood movie set. A variety of very cool hands-on displays allows pups to design a cyborg, move objects with their mind, talk to a robot, and discover the truth about traveling through wormholes.

Star Cars

Speaking of saving you a weekend trip to Hollywood, the San Diego Automotive Museum is offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for autograph hounds to meet some of the most famous TV and movie car celebrities of the past 75 years. Among them are the 1958 Plymouth Fury from the movie Christine, Starsky and Hutch’s 1975 Grand Torino, and KITT, the 1991 Pontiac Firebird fromKnight Rider.

Kawaii in the Garden

Pop culture icons are also in ample supply at the Japanese Friendship Garden where a pack-friendly display explores the Japanese cultural fascination with cuteness. The various artforms on display reveal the historical and aesthetic influences behind everything that’s cute and extra adorable in contemporary Japan, though I may never fully understand the whole Hello Kitty thing.

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