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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Only a select few top dogs continue to have their birthday celebrated nearly 75 years after they’ve gone to that great doghouse in the sky. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I would personally celebrate more than the woman responsible for planting hundreds, if not thousands, of trees (glorious trees!) throughout Balboa Park — Kate Sessions.

I mark November 8 in my iPaw calendar every year to make sure I at least pause for a few moments that day to remember the person who played a major role in creating the best urban sniffing grounds in Southern California, if not the entire country. Thanks to her foresight in planting scores of drought-tolerant trees, many of them are still alive today!

And I’m certainly not alone in recognizing the birthday of the “Mother of Balboa Park.” Once again, the annual Kate Sessions Birthday Celebration will take place at the Marston House Museum and Gardens from 2pm to 4pm on Saturday, November 8.

Guests can learn all about Kate’s prolific tree planting, not only in Balboa Park, but throughout San Diego. To get ready for next year’s Centennial Celebrations, the new version of the 1915 Electriquette vehicle will be on display, and there will be additional photo ops in front of Horseless Carriage cars.

Elementary school-age pups will also receive a free plant and directions for care to help keep the spirit of Kate alive. In addition, the Marston House will be offering discounted tours, and, perhaps more importantly for yours truly, there will be free birthday cake and punch!

Kate Sessions Fun Fact: The bronze statue of her in Sefton Plaza is the only full sculpture in the City of San Diego dedicated to a real-life woman.


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If your pups turn into Jack-o-Russell Terriers this time of year after chowing down handfuls of Halloween candy, I’m happy to report that Halloween celebrations in Balboa Park did not end with last Sunday’s spooktacular Family Day. In fact, there are still plenty of sugar-free Halloween treats in Balboa Park this week to help you keep everyone in your litter out of the house and off the furniture for a few hours.

Here are just a few tasty kibbles …

Monsters exhibition, Museum of Man, Werewolf drawingMonsters! — This interactive pup-friendly exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Man not only shows you what’s really living under your bed (if you don’t have a cat), but how to defeat (or befriend) it. Monsters! draws on the vast repertoire of creatures (both legendary and real!) across human history to teach us that there’s nothing to be afraid of … in most cases.

The Addams Family — If you thought your neighbors were scary, Gomez, Morticia, and Wednesday and the rest of the gang are back to prove otherwise in this comedy musical at the San Diego Junior Theatre. For the Halloween night performance, children will be admitted free with an adult ticket purchase and can enjoy trick-or-treating on stage and participate in a costume contest.

Halloween Silent Movie Nights: Phantom of the Opera — On Halloween night only, families and four-legged friends alike have a rare chance to view the classic 1925 film starring Lon Chaney with live musical accompaniment by one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Did I mention it was free and the organ is 100 years old?

Witches Brew — Pups too young for real Halloween chills can still enjoy some of the season’s low-calorie treats in this hand puppet show at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. Daytime performances run through November 2.

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Cosmos Blog, Ask Cosmos, Andy in Captain Jack Sparrow costumeAndy writes: Dear Cosmos, Thanks to my totally awesome Captain Jack Sparrow costume, I’m once again inundated with Halloween party invitations. Can you please give me five good reasons that my pack should make this Sunday’s park-wide Halloween Family Day a priority?

Cosmos: Being quite the Howloweenie myself, my dish fills up pretty quickly as well this time of year, though I typically avoid the costume drama and go au naturel, frequently receiving lots of compliments for my great doggie costume. (Humans are so gullible.)

To answer your question, I will now attempt to limit myself to only five reasons pups of all ages should attend the October 26 Balboa Park Halloween Family Day.

Balboa Park Halloween Family Day, family wearing 101 Dalmatians costumes in front of Botanical Building1. Free carnival games, activity booths, and more on the Prado

With over 20 participants, this year’s Prado walkway will be transformed into a Halloween carnival atmosphere, complete with carnival games, costume contests and prizes, and (wait for it) FREE CANDY!

2. Free kids concert and activities in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion

Since the Family Day falls on a Sunday, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion will turn its free weekly concert into a mini-Family Day, featuring pup-friendly Halloween tunes (2pm) and hands-on activities (1:30-3:30pm).

3. Lawn Program and trick-or-treating at the International Cottages

Again being Sunday, the weekly free Lawn Program at 2pm, courtesy of the House of Scotland, will be part of the day’s featured activities. And select cottages will be open for trick-or-treaters from noon to 4pm.

4. Doggie costume contest in the Spanish Village

Sorry, Andy. As “totally awesome” as your costume may be, the human judges are as fickle as felines, and the winner-take-all prize is still up for grabs. The Spanish Village studios will also be open for trick-or-treaters and craft making in the courtyard.

5. Free museum admission for bipedal pups 12 and under

Still the primary incentive for your human packmates to attend the annual Family Day, pups 12 under receive free entry (with paid adult) and access to all the Halloween-themed activities that day at participating museums. No coupon required.

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Chasing buses through Balboa Park just got a whole lot more interesting for yours truly ever since MTS introduced its Rapid 215 bus service on October 12, as more buses are now cruising down Park Blvd. more often for longer hours.

Nonetheless, you’d think having buses run seven days a week from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. at 10-minute intervals during weekday rush hours and at 15-minute intervals the rest of the time would give me ample opportunity to catch up to one these extra-long vehicles. In fact, for a bus traveling northbound on Park Blvd. from downtown, I technically have until it reaches San Diego State University to catch it anywhere along Park Blvd., El Cajon Blvd., or College Ave.

But wouldn’t you know it, these fancy new Rapid buses have their own dedicated lanes, a limited number of stops, and traffic signal prioritization, making them travel faster than any bus I’ve ever chased. Not to mention, stops seem much shorter now, as everyone gets on and off more quickly through multiple doors.

Fortunately, the updated bus shelters along the route not only give me time to catch my breath, but I can scan the electronic message boards for real-time arrival information for the next bus.

Of course, if I wasn’t such a bonehead (or a dog) and really wanted to ride one of these new buses, I’d simply pay the fare, buy a Compass Card, or a 30-Day Pass, which I understand costs a fraction of what it would cost to park downtown every day for a month.

It’s times like these that I really wish the Segway had caught on more – now those were easy to catch!

MTS Rapid Bus

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Being bred, weaned, and raised in San Diego, it’s easy to take certain things for granted: the sun, the beaches, another losing season for the Padres, and even our beloved urban oasis—Balboa Park.

House of Spain, lawn program, paella preparationThe name “Balboa Park” is such an institution itself, I wonder how many of us ever stop to think about the person it was named after, or even the fact that it was named after a person as opposed to being another colorful Spanish word, like Tierrasanta or Del Cerro. With the Centennial Celebrations just around the corner, I’ve decided it’s time to teach this old dog new tricks and find out more about Balboa Park’s rich history.

Thankfully the House of Spain, part of the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages, is offering a series of presentations and events this week in celebration of the Park’s namesake: Vasco Núñez de Balboa, a 15th-century Spanish explorer who was the first European to lead an expedition to the Pacific Ocean.

If you can’t remember your fourth-grade social studies lessons, or are a non-native transplant, then you might want to sniff out some of the free presentations that are continuing on Thursday and Friday (October 9-10) in the House of Spain’s cottage. (The presentation titled “Who Was Balboa?” will be repeated at 10am and 12 noon on Thursday and Friday.)

But let’s cut to the chase. Study after study has shown that folks, regardless of species, can’t learn diddly-squat on an empty stomach. To that end, the House of Spain will be serving up vats of paella beginning at 12 noon on both Saturday and Sunday (October 11-12). On Saturday, the paella will be accompanied at 2pm by live music by Novamenco as part of a free Lawn Program. On Sunday, which happens to be Spain’s National Day, the 2pm Lawn Program will feature a free performance by the “Olé Flamenco” dance company. Olé!

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