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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Diwali Festival 2012Known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is the most important holiday in India. And at $5 per person you don’t need to be a Slum Dog Millionaire to experience for yourself the region’s largest annual Diwali Festival, taking place on Sunday, October 21, from 3:30-8:00pm.

To honor the cross-cultural nature of the holiday, The San Diego Museum of Art and Mingei International Museum are once again pooling their resources to showcase the traditions, arts, pageantry, lights, and, yes, food, that Diwali is known for.

“But for five bones I could get a chai latte at Starbucks. Why should I go to the Diwali Festival instead?”

Well for starters, this howling good deal includes free admission to both museums until the extended closing time of 7pm—a $20 value in itself. In addition, there will be two cultural performances inside SDMA’s auditorium, henna painting and a large display of ornate lamps in the Sculpture Court, and rangoli making and gallery tours at the Mingei.

As in years past, the Diwali celebration will also feature a public procession through Balboa Park of over 1,000 lamps and Indian music and dance inside the Organ Pavilion.

“But isn’t there a Chargers game that same afternoon?”

Any real fan would know that the Chargers aren’t playing that weekend, so you have now run out of excuses to not pack up your pups (5 and under are free) and expose them to one of the most colorful and affordable events on the Balboa Park cultural calendar.

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If my species hibernated (12-hour naps don’t count), October would be the ideal time to start packing on an extra layer of warmth for the long winter sleep. Fortunately, we domesticated mammals don’t need any excuse to take full advantage of the weekly feeding frenzy known as the International Cottages’ Lawn Programs.

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, House of Spain Lawn ProgramIn case you have indeed been hibernating for the last few decades (or are new to the area), each Sunday at 2pm the 32 different cultures that compose the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages take turns hosting a weekly celebration of what makes their respective culture so distinctive.

And what can be more distinctive than food? (OK, the colorful costumes, music, dancing, and other lively performances featured at each Lawn Program provide a nice backdrop to all the edible treats.)

Take this Sunday, October 7, for example when the House of Spain will be serving a mammoth pan of paella, a traditional dish featuring my favorite food groups: chicken, seasoned rice, vegetables, and seafood. To complement this delectable dish will be ice cold lemonade and Spanish flamenco dancers.

The following two Sundays, the House of Czech and Slovak Republics (October 14) and the House of Turkey (October 21) bring their own unique brands of authentic singing, dancing, music, and, yes, food to the table.

The House of Scotland once again closes out October’s Lawn Program schedule on Sunday the 28th in recognition of the fact that Halloween originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain. Perhaps more importantly, meat pies and desserts, including the infamous “Death by Chocolate,” are on the menu.

While the Lawn Programs are always free to attend, there is a nominal charge for food and beverages—unless you go the scavenging-for-scraps route like I do.

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Halloween Family Day, Kid City exhibit, Reuben H. Fleet Science CenterWhile a Family Day event featuring free museum admission for bipedal pups 12 and under may not seem very dog friendly, I’m here to tell you otherwise. That’s because once again, the Spanish Village Art Center is hosting a free doggie costume contest as part of Balboa Park’s annual park-wide Halloween Family Day on Saturday, October 27.

Just a month away, now’s the time to start planning, designing, ordering, sewing, fitting, tweaking, and accessorizing a winning costume that will make your pooch grand marshal of the doggie costume parade. If that’s not enough incentive (what more do you need?), the top finishers receive a nice selection of edible treats, and first place fetches a $25 Spanish Village Gift Certificate.

The contest and costume parade get underway at 1pm near the Lily Pond, but before and after, there will be plenty of other fun activities going on throughout the Park the rest of the family can enjoy. In fact, the San Diego Natural History Museum is hosting its own costume parade for pups who no longer walk on four legs at 2:30pm, led by none other than Ms. Frizzle.

Kids in costume will also receive a free gift at the Balboa Park Visitors Center, where parents (costumed or not) can enter a drawing to win Passports to Balboa Park and tickets to other attractions and events. While there, you can retrieve more information on other Halloween-themed activities happening at over a dozen different museums that day, that is, if you haven’t done your homework ahead of time by checking the complete and frequently updated schedule.

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, FergusFergus writes: Dear Cosmos, My packmates plan to celebrate Oktoberfest this year, but they want to feel safe bringing all the pups in the family. Any tips on fun activities in Balboa Park this year?

Cosmos responds: There’s nothing like Oktoberfest time to bring out the German Shepherd in me. But while beer baths might be good therapy for the treatment of psoriasis and other skin conditions, according to Dr. Oz, I generally prefer to keep my coat healthy and shiny through less intoxicating means. Thankfully, two Balboa Park organizations will be hosting family-friendly Oktoberfest celebrations this weekend.

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Oktoberfest 2012, House of Germany, International Cottages Lawn ProgramOn both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, September 22-23, the International Folk Dancers of Balboa Park put on their 55th annual Oktoberfest in the Balboa Park Club. Billed as a “free family event,” the weekend festivities include traditional folk dance performances, free dance lessons for those of us with two left paws, colorful costumes, activities for the kinder, crafts, and the all-important food vendors.

And on Sunday, the House of Germany takes over the International Cottages’ lawn program schedule to present their annual Oktoberfest celebration. The House of Germany’s own Heimatklang Choir provides the entertainment, along with a German brass band and folk dancers.

The food and alcohol-free beverage selection (for a nominal charge) will feature bratwurst, sauerkraut, potato salad, German cakes, coffee, and lemonade. The activities get underway at 2pm, and since this event is outdoors, leashed hunde of all shapes and breeds are invited to attend (lederhosen optional).

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We’ve been getting some strange reports here at Balboa Park Central that not everyone has a dog and were thus unable to participate in the recent Top Dog Photo Contest. As a result, we have opened up last year’s Kid’s-Eye View Photo Contest to everyone this year—both pups and their breeders—in a brand new contest titled Focus on Balboa Park.

In case the contest name wasn’t entirely clear, I should point out that all entry submissions should focus on Balboa Park. So pictures of your child’s birthday, your vacation in the Bahamas, or your mother-in-law’s Franklin Mint collection will not be accepted.

Fortunately, with over 1,200 acres of picturesque vistas, ornate architecture, lush landscaping, and colorful attractions, there are plenty of picture-perfect subjects in Balboa Park awaiting your keen lens. Animal lovers are also invited to snap photos of their favorite fury friends in the San Diego Zoo. The only caveat is that photos of certain identifiable bipedal mammals (particularly the kind who can hire lawyers) are not accepted.

And in order to ensure youngsters (ages 6-17) did not run off with all the prizes, we’ve created a second prize category just for adults (18 and older) so everyone will have a fair chance of winning.

Prizes include an annual membership (for adults) or summer camp (youth) at the Museum of Photographic Arts, Family 4-Packs of Balboa Park Passports, tickets to the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park, and tickets to other Park attractions.

For the complete list of prizes and contest rules, and to submit your entry between now and October 24, be sure to visit and bookmark

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