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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

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?
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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.

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Greta writes: Dear Cosmos, As much as I enjoy hearing about all the 2015 activities, with spring around the corner and Balboa Park being a park and all, can you give us the dirt on all the garden and floral-themed events over the next couple of months?

Cosmos: You are one lucky dog, because being named after a flower, I have as much interest in what grows above the soil as I do in what can be dug up from it. Not to mention, the 1915 Panama-California Exposition was often referred to as the "Garden Fair" thanks to the extensive landscaping it generated park-wide. Accordingly, there are so many garden-themed activities going on this year, 2015 could very well be called a “Garden Fair” itself. Here are just some of the highlights:

Historic Garden Tour: Gardens Then and Now (April 11) — If you’ve ever wanted to look over your neighbor’s fence when they are home, now is your chance to visit a dozen private historic gardens, many inspired by Balboa Park’s original landscaping.

Garden Party of the Century (April 24–May 9) Several park and community organizations collaborate to present a two-week horticultural extravaganza, including a floral show, garden tours, expert consultations, demonstrations, and entertainment.

Floral Show: Our Park – Our Treasure (May 8–10) — San Diego’s top dog floral designers (at least the ones who don’t eat their own arrangements) are showcased in the Balboa Park Club.

Botanical Building Centennial Tours (2nd & 4th Friday) — Bipeds are invited to sniff around Balboa Park’s most fragrant landmark while learning its flowery history during a free 45-minute tour.

Art Alive (April 24–26) — From the sublime and elegant to the fanciful and, well, bizarre, the San Diego Museum of Art’s art collection has been the inspiration for some of the most creative floral designs to have ever been conceived in a public space.

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Russell the electric talking giraffe at Balboa Park STEAM Family DayOkay, I know I can be like a dog with a bone when it comes to repeatedly announcing Balboa Park’s Centennial Celebrations are officially here. But please indulge me because not only does the STEAM Family Day on Sunday, March 15, mark the first major park-wide event of 2015, it also means Balboa Park’s Centennial Celebrations are officially here!

Now that I’ve said it (perhaps for the last time), let’s consider what makes this year’s installment of the annual spring Family Day a truly epic celebration of the 1915 Exposition’s 100-year anniversary.

  • A humongous assortment of fun STEAM* activities for families presented by over 30 Balboa Park and community organizations, including official Family Day sponsors Time Warner Cable and Whole Foods Market and transportation partner MTS.
  • Dozens of free activity booths and demos — that pups won’t even realize are educational — set up along the Prado walkway. Can you say quadcopters?
  • A personal appearance by my friend Russell, the 11-foot talking giraffe, who will be joined by many other innovative Maker exhibits throughout the Park. A giant talking giraffe!
  • Free admission for everyone in your litter age 12 and under with paid adult at participating museums, many featuring Centennial-themed exhibitions like the working scale model of the Panama Canal at the San Diego History Center.
  • Frank Favela, host of the colorful Spanish-language kids TV program Zona de Escape, presenting cool games and experiments.
  • Free children’s concert (2pm) and activities throughout the day in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Those are just a few choice highlights to chew on — while I go chew on my post-second breakfast late-morning snack. For the complete list of STEAM Family Day programs, activities, exhibits, and events, visit

*STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math

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