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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

At the risk of sounding like a one-trick pony, over the next few weeks I will be barking about free summer concerts in Balboa Park A LOT. Joining such annual favorites as the Twilight in the Park and the International Summer Organ Festival series are several special concert events in honor of the Balboa Park Centennial.

One such series, Music in Park, will be turning my favorite new hang out, the Plaza de Panama, into the Park’s hottest gathering spot on Thursday nights (7:30-8:30pm) and Saturday afternoons (1-2pm), starting June 6.

Each week, families and their pooches can catch a wide variety of free music and dance performances while lounging in the colorful new furnishings that were unveiled in April. Multi-taskers who have the attention span of a flea will be able to plug into their favorite social media distractions while enjoying the show thanks the Plaza’s free Wi-Fi.

In addition, the Plaza de Panama is also playing host to three major concert events this month:

San Diego Makes Music (June 14, 3:00pm)

The Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra will present a free afternoon of classical music as performed by top-dog concertmasters from around the country. Nipping at their heels during a special play-along opportunity will be local amateur musicians from the audience.

China Tour Bon Voyage Concert (June 18, 7:30pm)

Eighty-two of the San Diego Youth Symphony’s most advanced students, accompanied by members of the San Diego Symphony, help celebrate the Balboa Park Centennial before embarking on a two-week concert tour of China.

Make Music Day San Diego (June 21)

For the first time ever, San Diego joins more than 700 cities worldwide to celebrate Make Music Day. Free and open to every kind of musician — young and old, amateur and professional, two-legged or four-legged — Make Music Day San Diego will include unique musical performances and educational programming for pups of all ages.

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It should come as no surprise that San Diego’s illustrious pedigree as a military town is interwoven with Balboa Park’s history as the cultural epicenter of San Diego. In fact, during World War II, the Park proudly served as a base for training and convalescence of service members. Seventy years later, Balboa Park is still home to the Bob Wilson Naval Hospital, a top dog medical facility in the region.

Continuing this rich tradition, seven Balboa Park museums will once again offer free admission to active-duty military personnel and their families, including Reserves and the National Guard, through Labor Day as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

Presenting a number of special exhibitions in celebration of 2015, the participating museums include

This means any dog tag-wearing service member can bring his or her pack (up to five members) to see such Centennial–worthy exhibitions as 7 Billion Others at the Museum of Photographic Arts, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 at The San Diego Museum of Art, Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss at the San Diego History Center, and Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum at the Mingei International Museum … to name a few.

But that’s only half the story. Seven other museums in San Diego County, including the nearby New Children’s Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown are also on the itinerary. For a full list of participating museums in California, sniff around the website of the National Endowment for the Arts, which co-sponsors this program.

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Jack writes: Dear Cosmos, As someone who can chew my way through anything I get my paws on in a matter of minutes, I was wondering if you could recommend any activities in Balboa Park that I can savor for more than just a few hours.

Cosmos: Hey Jack, chew on this: my favorite annual springtime event, the Ethnic Food Fair, hosted by the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages is expanding by an entire day. That means 100% more time to enjoy music and dance performances from around the globe, and 100% more time to sample a tasty assortment of scraps dropped by 100% more visitors who will be attending the now two-day event from May 23 to 24.

By expanding to two full days, the Ethnic Food Fair not only solves the problem of giving guests adequate time to sample delicacies from all 32 cultures represented, it also allows time for seconds!

I’m sure this will give even you, Jack, plenty to chew on so you won’t feel the need to destroy certain non-edible household items from 10am to 5pm on those two days.

So what exactly will you be chewing on at this year’s Ethnic Food Fair, you may ask. For starters (or should I say appetizers?), I highly recommend the Swedish meatballs and pancakes served by, you guessed it, the House of Sweden. That should be followed by the House of Palestine’s chicken shawarma that’s good enough for even the mighty Avengers®.

By the time the lunch hour rolls around, or you roll into the lunch hour, you might try the House of Argentina’s empanadas and flan, topped off by varenyky and kovbasa sandwiches at the House of Ukraine. Your first post-lunch afternoon snack could then consist of Finnish crepes smothered in whipped cream and strawberries. And for your mid-afternoon snack, I suggest going for the House of China’s savory barbeque beef skewers (if you’re careful, the wood skewers provide another item worth chewing).

This would bring you to your pre-dinner appetizer meal. Columbian tamales would be a good way to go. Or you could keep it domestic by grabbing some hot dogs and baked beans at the good ol’ House of USA.

Of course, the above suggestions only account for 8 of the 32 cultures serving food that day. For the rest, you are on your own. Thankfully, that’s only Saturday’s recommended menu.

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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.

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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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