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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Though there won’t be a shortage of things to do in Balboa Park this Memorial Day weekend, any event that serves food, food, and more food certainly tops my “To Do” list. And this isn’t just any event; I'm barking about the Ethnic Food Fair on Sunday, May 27, where, for the 32nd year in a row, 32 different cultures prepare and serve native delicacies (for a nominal fee per dish) from 10am to 5pm.

The first few food stations I’ll be hovering near for scraps include the House of Norway for lefse (potato pancakes) and vafler (waffles); the House of Lebanon for traditional Mediterranean fare like hummus, tabouli, spinach pies, falafel, and stuffed grape leaves; the House of Germany for their mouth-watering bratwurst, sauerkraut, and potato salad; the House of China for some tasty Asian dishes like barbeque beef skewers, egg rolls, rice, and noodles; and the House of Columbia to fill my dish with tamales, plantanos (fried bananas), and empanadas (meat-filled turnovers).

And those are just five cultures out of 32, so at this point I’m really only scarfing the surface!

Fortunately, to help pass the time as I eat my way around the world will be a full schedule of colorful performances of costumed singers, dancers, and musicians representing the same 32 different cultures. Among the highlights are Sohaila & the Shining Stars belly dancers; the Sabor Andaluz flamenco dancers; the child prodigies, the Pizzaro Brothers, on duo pianos; and Julie Sigala, who performs Polish and Latino songs.

Since you may not have anything better on your plate this weekend, I urge you and your pack join me for this annual chow down.

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BJ and Diesel write: Dear Cosmos, With the Dancing with the Stars finale just around the corner, my family wants to know if there’s someplace they can go in Balboa Park to learn how to execute their own flawless paw-so-doble.

Cosmos writes: Though the dancers on that show spend hours and hours practicing each week so they can perform at such a high level, it’s certainly possible to transform two left paws through the many dance classes offered in the Park.

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Dance ClassesWhile canines are naturals when it comes to the four-legged foxtrot, most other dances don’t come so easily to either us or our human companions. Thankfully, the Balboa Park Dancers holds lessons two nights a week, Fridays and Sundays, for any level of ballroom dance experience—and aptitude—in the historic Balboa Park Club.

Each month the lessons, taught by highly trained professionals, focus on one smooth, or ballroom, style of dance and one Latin, or rhythm, style of dance. There’s also a monthly “Party Night” event the second Friday of the month for really getting your freak on.

The Cabrillo Folk Dancers, who meet in the Balboa Park Club on Tuesdays, are a good alternative for us dead hoofers or anyone else seeking more informal dance styles. They offer line dances and partner dances from around the world that are easy and fun to learn for all ages. Other ethnic dance styles are taught regularly at the World Beat Center, so be sure to check their website for a schedule.

If you prefer your folk dance American style, the New Square Dance Beginners is probably more your “thang.” They meet in the Casa del Prado on Sunday evenings, with the next new session commencing on June 3 and 10.

If your pack members still feel intimidated by taking a dance class, just let them know that the motto for most of these organizations is “If you can walk, you can dance.”

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Mother's Day 2012, Rose GardenShe pupped you, nursed you, cleaned you, and reared you for years before you knew how to yap “Thank you.” Now that you’re fully weaned (one would hope), it’s time to show her just how grateful you are by giving her a fabulous Mother’s Day in Balboa Park.

One Mother’s Day treat she’ll never forget is the annual Champagne Brunch at the Prado Restaurant. Eggs Benedict with crab, prime rib, chilled seafood and dim sum stations, and a chocolate fountain are just a few of the tasty highlights she (and I) will bark about for years to come. But you’d better make your reservations soon for this doggie dish-busting smorgasbord!

For the entertainment portion of the day, you have a few options:

The breathtaking IMAX film To the Arctic at the Reuben H. Fleet tracks the emotional journey of a mama polar bear and her two precocious pups as they hunt, nuzzle, and play their way across a changing and scenic Arctic wilderness.

If reality TV meets first-rate theater production is more her style, than she’ll likely enjoy a matinee performance of the new musical comedy at the Old Globe Theatre, Nobody Loves You.

On the other hand, if being in the Park is more about sniffing around outdoors for her, then a leisurely stroll through a Rose Garden in full bloom followed by a free Mother’s Day concert in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion might just be the ticket.

With so many different things to do in Balboa Park, you shouldn’t have any problem making it about her and what she wants to do — on any pup’s budget.

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For many people living in San Diego, the onset of May grey skies can be like a guard dog’s warning that summer is lurking around the corner. But if you aren’t fortunate enough to get away with always wearing your birthday suit, like yours truly, then you are faced with the often terrifying prospect of squeezing into the latest swimsuit styles.

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Florida Canyon, Nature TrailThankfully, these cool overcast mornings provide the perfect opportunity to start busting your tail and making up for your failed New Year’s fitness resolutions. So from the perspective of a lean active canine, here are my top five suggestions for getting in shape in Balboa Park:

Hit the Trails: In Balboa Park, you can’t get out of a parked car without stepping on a trail suitable for walking, jogging, running, skipping, or whatever form of bipedal locomotion you prefer. The trail terrain ranges from flat and paved to steep and rugged, so be prepared.

Tennis Anyone? Dust off that old wooden racket you stuffed in your attic and take advantage of the Balboa Tennis Club’s 25 hardcourts—19 of them lighted. Affordable day rates are available, so you don’t even need to be a member.

Take the Plunge: If you’re brave enough to put on a swimsuit this soon, then you can dog paddle your way into a trimmer bod at the Bud Kearns Memorial Swimming Pool, which offers lap swimming, recreational swimming, and water fitness classes.

Fore! Balboa Park’s grounds are so vast it actually offers two 18-hole courses: The Balboa Park Municipal Golf Course is a traditional golf course with great canyon views, and the Morley Field Disc Golf Course provides equally scenic vistas across tree-lined greens. (Lots and lots of trees!)

Wear Your Best Whites: While indoor bowling alleys seem to be going the way of the dinosaur, Balboa Park continues to offer English-style Lawn Bowling in a picturesque outdoor setting on the West Mesa. This leisurely looking game actually requires a great deal of finesse and strategy.

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Cosmos Blog, Summer Camps 2012, Balboa Park, Reuben H. Fleet Science CenterLong before I began my career as the Park’s resident canine blogger, I enjoyed many an idyllic summer as a young pup frolicking through Balboa Park’s gardens and sniffing every corner of its historic architecture. It is those experiences that made me the alpha dog I am today—at least in my own little pack. If I had the benefit of the kinds of organized summer camp experiences currently offered by the Park’s first-class cultural organizations, who knows where I would be today!

Fortunately, it’s not too late for your own pups, and there’s never been a better time to introduce them to the many facets of Balboa Park’s cultural kaleidoscope. Whether your younglings prefer ballet, photography, airplanes, arts and crafts, astronomy, trains, dinosaurs, archeology, nature, and everything in between, you’ll find something in the many half-day Balboa Park summer camps that they won’t mind putting down the Nintendo for.

And if your pups are more like fickle felines, no problem! A special collaborative program allows each kid to spend the morning in one camp and the afternoon in a completely different one, with camp staff providing lunchtime supervision and an escort to the second venue. The only catch is you’ll need to register at each institution separately, as there is no centralized registration process.

And if you’re the type of workaholic or commuter that can’t fetch your child by 4:00pm each day, the Old Globe Theatre is now offering an aftercare program from 4:00 to 6:00pm. Full-day camps are also offered by the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Zoo, and San Diego Art Institute.

But you’d better hurry, as the most popular camps fill up quickly! To start your planning, be sure to paw over this handy brochure.

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