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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

As a highly trained canine, I have a keen appreciation for any fellow four-legged creature who knows how to put on a good show under the circus big top. Not only does it take practice and skill to perform unimaginable feats night after night, but a deep knowledge of math, physics, and biology.

My bipedal readers can now get an inside look at how both humans and animals are capable of such daring exploits, thanks to science, in a new exhibition at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Circus: Science Under the Big Top.

Across 20 interactive exhibitions, pups of all ages can learn (and practice) how to walk a tightrope, perform aerial acrobatics like a trapeze artist, juggle different kinds of objects without chewing on them, lift heavy weights, become a contortionist, and hit their landing as a human cannonball.

There’s also an important section on communicating with animals so humans can learn how to properly perform with them. To get in the right frame of mind, visitors (both kids and their adult handlers) are invited to dress up as a lion, tiger, or bear.

As an exhibition designed to teach the science behind the circus spectacle, I was especially pleased to hear one exhibit uncovers the illusion behind the sideshow flea circus. The very idea that the most annoying creature on the planet is capable of being a trained circus performer on par with some of my fury friends has always chaffed my hide.

Posted in Museums | add a comment

Some days I just don’t know what I ever did without my iPaw calendar app. As Balboa Park’s resident doggie blogger, I try to give families and their pets the heads up on every worthwhile event in the Park. And this Saturday, May 9, is one of those days that every half-hour on my calendar is programmed to alert me to a different activity.

Much of this has to do with the fact that the Garden Party of the Century already presents a day full of floral festivities, starting with a Kids Wagon Parade at 9:30am, and concluding with a free concert of the Youth Orchestra of the Californias at 4pm in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

I realize of course for some people I may be barking up the wrong tree by highlighting the biggest garden party to hit Balboa Park in the last 100 years. I get it. Flowers, foliage, and food trucks aren’t for everyone. So for them (and as an added reminder to myself), I thought I should mention three other unique events also taking place on May 9:

Puppet Show: Bum, San Diego’s Official Town Dog — Pooch lovers and their pups won’t want to miss this rare chance to see the remarkable story of San Diego’s first canine celebrity in a two-day-only puppet show performance at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. Presented in honor of the Balboa Park Centennial, the show is based on the book A Dog Called Bum scribed by Marie Hitchcock herself.

Don Quixote in the Park Day — In case you haven’t noticed, Balboa Park has a lot of Spanish connections (the architecture being a big giveaway). That’s why a year of Centennial celebrations wouldn’t be complete without a festival honoring Miguel de Cervantes, the favorite son of the Park’s sister city, Alcalá de Henares. The day-long Lawn Program-style event, presented by the House of Spain at the International Cottages, promises plenty of paella for everyone!

Art Glass Guild Show & Sale — It may surprise some people that the Spanish Village Art Center is the pooch-friendliest area of the Park that isn’t an officially designated dog park. After all, what other Balboa Park cultural institution has its own doggie blogger? The annual Art Glass Guild Show & Sale, featuring over 30 juried glass artists on May 9 and 10, may be the one time of year bipedal visitors don’t notice the plaza’s colorful cobblestones.

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If there’s one thing I know after sniffing, scratching, and digging (when the groundskeepers aren’t looking) around Balboa Park all these years, it’s gardens. And not just any garden, but award-winning historically significant gardens.

Garden Party of the Century, view of lily pondAccordingly, my tail couldn’t be wagging more over the fact that in order to properly celebrate Balboa Park’s Centennial, the City of San Diego has collaborated with a number of local cultural and floral organizations to present the Garden Party of the Century.

On Saturday, May 9, from 9:30am to 5pm, park visitors (and their pooches) will be transported to an era before 24-hour home and garden TV channels, when communities would gather together to celebrate spring’s bounty and share their latest gardening successes, tips, food, music, and conversation.

Early birds will be rewarded for setting their cell phone alarms when a Kids Floral Wagon Parade gets the party rolling at 9:30am sharp. The parade of pups pulling wagons runs from the Spanish Village Art Center, down the El Prado walkway, and finishes in the Plaza de Panama. This is followed at 11:30am by a commemorative plant exchange and march across the Cabrillo Bridge by the US Marine Corps — a re-enactment of a similar march that took place in 1915.

Filling out the day will be the fragrant San Diego Floral Show in the Balboa Park Club, demonstrations by plein air painters and master gardeners, tours of Balboa Park’s famous gardens in full bloom, dozens of vendor and activity booths, and live entertainment. And of course no 21st-century garden party would be complete without food trucks!

If you can’t be bugged about coming to the Garden Party of the Century, at least take note that capping off the day will be a free concert by the Youth Orchestra of the Californias, from 4 to 5pm, in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. The region’s only binational youth orchestra (consisting of members of the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra and Tijuana’s music conservatory, Centro de Artes Musicales) will celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a performance of works by Mexican composers.

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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
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