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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Riesling writes: Dear Cosmos, My family appreciates your efforts to keep them informed of all the great Centennial Celebration activities in Balboa Park, but speaking perro a perro, I’m still wondering what’s in it for just us pooches?

Cosmos: Though sadly I have yet to see a special exhibition or event titled “100 Years of Dogs in Balboa Park” or “Canine Memorabilia from the 1915 & 1935 Expositions” on the official Celebrate Balboa Park website, there are a couple of activities coming up this week that all dogs worth their snout should mark on their calendar. The programs kick off a two-week-long series of garden-themed activities, culminating in the Garden Party of the Century on May 9.

The first is a very special Arbor Day celebration on Friday, April 24, at the War Memorial Building from 10am to 12pm. If you’ve never seen the classic Snoopy cartoon It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown, you probably should know that Arbor Day is an internationally observed holiday focused on the planting and care of trees.

Now that I have your undivided attention, it’s worth noting Balboa Park’s first Arbor Day celebration was, not surprisingly, organized by the Mother of Balboa Park herself, Kate Sessions, back in 1904. On that day, Sessions, along with 3,500 schoolchildren, planted 60 pine and cypress trees, many of which I’m sure are still around for our, ahem, benefit.

Keeping the tradition, the Friends of Balboa Park hold an annual ceremony where hundreds of pups are let out of obedience school for one day to grab a shovel and plant even more trees. This year’s Arbor Day event adds 12 new American Tulip trees to the walkway leading up to the War Memorial Building.

The following day, April 25, knowledgeable volunteers will offer special tours of my second favorite West Mesa hangout (after Nate Point’s Dog Park, of course), the Trees for Health Garden, from 11am to 3pm. This will be a great way to learn the other valuable uses for trees that us dogs often overlook as we go about our business. 

Posted in Ask Cosmos | add a comment

I must admit, I’m having a little trouble wrapping my tail around the trendy concept of “activated spaces.” As a canine, activating a space is a rather simple process, mostly a matter of bladder control.

However, I’m certain when the largest open space on Balboa Park’s Central Mesa, the Plaza de Panama, becomes officially “activated” on Wednesday, April 22, from 12 noon to 4pm, I’ll gain a new appreciation for the buzzword’s meaning.

After all, at 1pm, San Diego’s top dog himself, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, will be on hand to do the honors of unveiling the magical transformation of the former parking lot bordered by The San Diego Museum of Art, the Timken Museum of Art, the House of Charm, and the House of Hospitality.

To experience just what an activated space is all about that afternoon, the public is invited to enjoy special hands-on activities hosted by various Balboa Park cultural organizations, performances by San Diego Civic Dance Arts, and more importantly, eminently edible chow from popular food trucks, Chop Soo-ey and Tacos La Mezcla.

Attendees at the special event will also be among the first to break in the Plaza’s new amenities, which include additional tables and chairs, umbrellas, benches, games, and an “outdoor living room” and lawn for lounging. And while they are doing so, they might want to thank Southwest Airlines and the Project for Public Spaces, The San Diego Foundation, and the Balboa Park Conservancy for making it all possible.

I’m sure once I get a whiff of what a vibrant gathering space in the heart of the nation’s largest urban cultural park is, it will quickly become my favorite hangout for free Wi-Fi, unsolicited petting, and food scraps galore!

Posted in Concerts and Events | add a comment

During my first years of writing this blog, I couldn’t wait until spring and the return of the free Sunday afternoon lawn programs at the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages in Balboa Park. From March through October, 32 different cultures would take turns hosting a cultural festival, featuring traditional music and dance, colorful costumes, and enough delectable food to hold me over until … well, dinnertime.

Such a limited schedule, however, begged the obvious question, “What about November through February?" And for dogsake, "What about Saturday?!”

It seems my years of hounding the good folks who run the various international houses is starting to pay off, as each passing year has seen the emergence of a welcome new trend: more programs, not only during “off season” months, but on Saturdays as well.

Take this weekend, for example. The House of England, which is hosting its annual Sunday lawn program on April 12 in celebration St. George’s Day, is also presenting an English Village Fete on Saturday, April 11, from 12 noon to 4pm.

What does that mean in practical terms? More bangers and mash, more shepherd’s pie, more costumed bobbies and beefeaters, and more entertainment fit for a king, including performances by the Moreton Bay Fig Dancers and Shakespeare-inspired fun with my favorite dog-friendly verbavore, Richard Lederer.

Looking ahead at the 2015 Lawn Program schedule, I see that these double-header weekends, when a Saturday festival precedes a Sunday lawn program, are becoming the new normal. Now if they would only extend the lawn programs to Monday through Friday, I could lick my weekday withdrawal symptoms for good! 

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Even though it’s strange to talk about spring when San Diego never got a winter, that doesn’t change the fact that families are now faced with a house full of pups suffering from spring fever for two entire weeks. This is particularly a problem when the tried-and-true “cures” (going to the beach, the mall, or the movies) become less effective at bringing down excessive levels of yapping (i.e., complaining).

Thanks in part to the 2015 Centennial celebrations in Balboa Park, there is no shortage of cool things for your little hot dogs to sink their teeth into during spring break:

  1. Perception: See Beyond the Illusion with Jason Latimer — Back by popular demand, because it’s just that cool, the World Champion of Magic continues to leave audiences barking for more at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.
  2. The White Snake — This enchanting theatrical spectacle for the entire litter at the Old Globe tells the classic Chinese fable of a gentle serpent that transformsinto a beautiful woman and is as cool as it sounds.
  3. The Sleeping Beauty — If any production can convince your little cynics that ballet is cool, this professionally staged performance of the timeless tale by the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet is the one.
  4. 7 Billion Others — A groundbreaking multimedia display at the Museum of Photographic Arts featuring 6,000 interviews from 84 countries in 50 different languages — sounds pretty cool to me.
  5. Raphael, Madonna of the Pinks — This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at the Timken Museum of Art to see a masterwork by the great Renaissance painter without travelling to Europe is the definition of cool. Did I mention admission is free?
Posted in Stuff to Do | add a comment

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, windmill building education programLet’s face it — most pups are more concerned with having fun NOW than what happened in Balboa Park 100 years ago. You can drag them by the leash to all the great exhibitions, performances, and special events taking place this year you want, but chances are they will mostly remember the fun times they had at the event — not the Balboa Park Centennial itself.

Perhaps the best way to help everyone in your litter appreciate that they are part of an epic 100-year anniversary of an Exposition that put the City of San Diego on the world map is to enroll them in a Balboa Park summer camp.

Over a dozen park institutions participate each year in the Balboa Park summer camp program, collectively offering a one-stop summer camp experience for kids of all ages all summer long. Full-day and half-day camps (which can be combined to make it a full day) are available in such a wide-range of subject areas that pups will be begging for more.

So instead of sitting around the house all-day connected to electronic devices and jumping on and chewing up the furniture, they can be learning how to dig up dinosaur fossils or ancient civilizations, launch a space rocket, sing and dance on stage, create an artistic masterpiece, care for endangered species, plan and build a railroad, or design the perfect automobile … to mention a just few possibilities.

Also, Balboa Park museums are making a special effort to mark the Centennial with a remarkable slate of special exhibitions this year. And since many summer camps are designed around specific exhibitions, pups will have unprecedented access to sniff around some of the biggest shows celebrating 2015, giving them even more memories to share with their own brood one day.

Posted in Museums | add a comment
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