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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

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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We’ve all heard the expression, “it takes a village.” But as my four-legged friends can all attest, it really just takes a pack to create positive change in the lives of the local canine community. That’s never been more in evidence than at a recent event at Nate’s Point Dog Park, where a number of frequent park users gathered together over coffee, granola bars, and dog treats to discuss and design ways to improve the off-leash experience.

The community event, hosted by the Balboa Park Conservancy, was the next step in making the Dream Dog Park Project, awarded by Beneful earlier this year, a reality. The first phase of the Dream Dog Park Project was the January planting of 18 new trees on the south end of Nate’s Point. Thanks to the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department, the tree planting only took a nip out of the $20,000 cash prize from Beneful.

Nate's Point community event participants gather around map of Nate's PointAs part of this open community charrette event, a map of Nate’s Point was laid out to help folks brainstorm amenities that could be added to the popular pooch pit stop. The consensus was that rather than separating large and small dogs, which had been proposed earlier, passive dogs should be given a place of their own to relax without fear of being harassed by more energetic, active dogs.

With the help of Balboa Park Conservancy CEO and certified landscape architect Tomas Herrera-Mishler and two enthusiastic design interns, Juliana Welch and Natalie Montoya, a conceptual design was drawn up that incorporated the community’s input.

Other ideas discussed by attendees and put on the list included

  • Installing solar-powered, motion-activated perimeter lighting
  • Adding moveable seating areas
  • Offering accessible alternatives for entry
  • Relocating the eastern entrance
  • Putting in more water fountains
  • Removing worn-out signs
  • Creating an agility course in the proposed active dog section
  • Relandscaping heavily eroded areas and planting grass

Of course, as stated above, realizing a Dream Dog Park takes a pack, as the Beneful cash prize can only go so far. If you’d like to make a donation, please visit the Donate page on the Balboa Park Conservancy’s new website. In the comments section, be sure to mention you’d like your contribution to go toward Nate’s Point Dog Park improvements.

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Headshot of Maya the dog, Cosmos Blog, Balboa ParkMaya writes: Dear Cosmos, Every time I turn around, even when I’m not chasing my tail, I hear something about Food Truck Friday. Now I hear it’s been extended. Any kind of food sounds great to me. Why should my pack make a point of going to a Food Truck Friday?

Cosmos: Ironically, you could stop chasing your tail looking for a decent meal if you just came out to a Food Truck Friday event and sniffed for yourself. While food certainly gets, and deserves, top-dog billing at an event entitled Food Truck Friday, there is so much more to dig about these festive evenings in the Park, including free entertainment. In fact, speaking of top-dog billing, one of the most dynamic groups ever to hit the Plaza is performing at the August 19 event.

Caribbean Escape food truck in front of House of Hospitality buildingThis Friday, thanks to a generous donation by our local Kiwanis Club, the Latin fusion music ensemble Jarabe Mexicano is the evening’s featured performer. Don’t get me wrong, Food Truck Friday has featured a lot of outstanding talent over the past two months. But it hasn’t presented a musical group as polished, energetic, and crowd-pleasing as this — the very reason the Kiwanis Club stepped up and made it possible!

Based in San Diego, and in-demand on both sides of the border, Jarabe Mexicano is a breed apart when it comes to blending various regional Mexican styles. Their vast repertoire includes traditional Boleros, Huapangos, Sones, and Rancheras as well as more contemporary genres, such as Mexican Cumbia, Doo Wop, Reggae, and Rock.

The ensemble’s members — lead vocalist Gustavo Alcoser, Mario Eguía on requinto, Kevin Lomes on vihuela, Alejandro Tapia on percussion and guitar, and bassist Oskar Beckmann — are artists as well as trained music educators. Like the Kiwanis Club, they have established strong ties to the local community, supporting public school arts programs throughout San Diego.

Bottom line: if you go to one Food Truck Friday this year, make it this one!

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In a recent survey, one of the most requested enhancements to our beloved Nate’s Point Dog Park was a separate area for small dogs. Speaking as a medium dog, I am quite familiar with the trouble small pooches can cause us larger pack members.

View of humans and dogs playing in Nate's Point dog park in Balboa ParkSo this Saturday, August 13, beginning at 10:30am, all interested dog owners or lovers can attend a special community event at Nate’s Point Dog Park to help determine how to best mark territory for large and small dogs at Nate’s Point.

The Balboa Park Conservancy is hosting this Nate’s Point Charrette (which is just a fancy word for a meeting to discuss a project’s design and plans) in order to collect as much community feedbark as possible before presenting design concepts to the City of San Diego and other Balboa Park stakeholders. The impetus for the project is a wad of leftover bones from Beneful’s Dream Dog Park prize awarded earlier this year.

The event on Saturday will also include a Paint with Paws Benefit to generate additional funds for future Nate’s Point enhancements. All canines in attendance can unleash their inner Van Dog and create masterpieces, using non-toxic paints, that will be suitable for framing or selling on eBay.

Light snacks, coffee, and dog treats will also be provided to help get everyone’s creative juices flowing for both the Painting with Paws activity and for drawing up plans to divide the dog park’s turf.

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Thank dog! One of the pet-friendliest cinematic experiences in Balboa Park, if not San Diego, is back! The San Diego Museum of Art’s annual summer outdoor film festival, Film in the Garden, has outgrown the more intimate, albeit culturally stimulating, confines of the museum's sculpture garden. So this year, the weekly film series will be presented on the more spacious lawn in front of the Botanical Building.

Outdoor Film HiPeople seated on Botanical Building lawn for outdoor film screeningstory 101

Back when I was a wee pup, The San Diego Museum of Art began projecting films on the east side of its building, as thousands of filmgoers watched and picnicked on the surrounding lawns. The first film ever shown in this manner was Topkapi (1964) on July 27, 2000.

The concept and attendance for the series, then titled Screen on the Green, quickly grew, and in two short years the annual series was selected by editors of SignOn San Diego as “Best Film Festival in 2002,” just the first of many such honors. (And yes, the San Diego Museum of Art’s outdoor summer film series has technically outlived SignOn San Diego.)

But things got hairy three years later when nature ran its course and caused a tree to grow and block the wall that the films were projected on (the one time I’ve ever cursed a tree!). The series’ survival was in doubt until a museum employee, realizing that Screen on the Green had taken on a life of its own and was quickly becoming a San Diego tradition, had the brilliant idea of acquiring a massive inflatable outdoor screen.

Flash forward to 2016 when once again San Diegans and their entire pack can experience outdoor cinema the way it was meant to be seen in Balboa Park. This year’s Film in the Garden series will present classic films on Monday nights through August 29, beginning at 7:45 p.m. (see the schedule for details). As always, seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to arrive early to mark your territory. And boozehounds will need to consume all alcoholic beverages by 8 p.m. (as per city park rule).

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