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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Cosmos Blog, Ask Cosmos, Olivia the CatOlivia the Cat writes: Dear Cosmos, due to a little too much catting around this summer, I’m afraid my family’s staycation budget is completely cashed out. Are there still any fun ways they can celebrate the Centennial for free this summer?

Cosmos: Yes there are, but with only two weeks left, they shouldn’t pussyfoot around about getting their tail to these events. Fortunately, each of this summer’s free festivals has a special finale planned, so your family will be in the catbird’s seat when it comes to experiencing the best of what this summer’s Centennial Celebrations in Balboa Park have to offer. 

  1. Organ Pavilion, duskTwilight in the Park Centennial Concert Preview Series — The final week of the popular weekday evening concert series will sweeten the kitty with not one, but two concert preview events: Moonlight Serenade Orchestra’s August 25 performance will be preceded by a period car display, harmony singers, and swing lessons. And on August 27, 1950s cars, hula hoops, and dance lessons will prep folks for an oldies rock and roll show by The Legends.
  2. Gregory Page and Friends — Another special treat this summer for us song-and-dance hounds has been the Centennial Music Series, held twice weekly in the recently furnished Plaza de Panama. Concluding the series in style will be a Centennial Celebration Concert event on August 29 in the Casa del Prado theater, featuring local jazz man Gregory Page and some very special guests, including actor John C. Reilly.
  3. International Summer Organ Festival Finale — Not to be outshined, the grand-daddy of all concert venues in Balboa Park, Spreckels Organ Pavilion, will conclude a stellar summer under the stars with “100 Years of Broadway!” Joining San Diego’s top-dog civic organist, Dr. Carol Williams, will be soprano Lisa Vroman, baritone Clark Sterling, and tenor Michael Dailey who will perform some of Broadway’s most memorable songs.
  4. Centennial Summer Film Series at The Old Globe — Speaking of Broadway, if song on celluloid is more your style, The Old Globe Theater is wrapping up its free summer Shakespeare film series with West Side Story, the groundbreaking riff on the bard’s Romeo and Juliet. The Lowell Davies Festival Theatre will provide the appropriate “stage” for the August 24 screening.
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Once again it’s Top Dog Photo Contest voting week and I can’t stop wringing my paws over which photogenic pooch will be crowned Balboa Park’s next Top Dog. The stakes are higher than ever, as this year’s winner will forever bear the special distinction of being the Balboa Park Centennial Top Dog.

It’s a mixed blessing that as Balboa Park’s Top Doggie Blogger, I’m not allowed to vote. After making a number of agonizing decisions, the judges have singled out one of the best batches of finalists I’ve seen in the Top Dog public vote. I’ve carefully clicked on each photo to get a closer view, and I honestly don’t see one mangy mutt in the bunch – so many fetching breeds and spectacular views of Balboa Park to choose from!

In addition to wearing the crown of Balboa Park Top Dog 2015, the pup attracting the most votes will be awarded an overnight stay at Loews Coronado Bay Resort and an enhanced “Loews Loves Pets” amenity package. The pooch with the second highest number of votes will receive a $25 gift certificate to Spanish Village Art Center (my home away from home) and a custom dichroic glass dog tag by Spanish Village artist Chris Stell. And one third-place winner receives a Family 4-Pack of tickets to the Museum of Photographic Arts and another Family 4-Pack to an upcoming show at San Diego Junior Theatre.

But please don’t drag your tail. Polls close Friday, August 14, at 5pm.


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You don’t need to be Balboa Park’s top doggie blogger to see that the vast majority of programs and activities presented in honor of the 2015 Centennial Celebration in Balboa Park have revived, revised, or continued a beloved park tradition from the past 100 years. One activity I guarantee will not be revisited this year in all its original glory is the Zoro Garden Nudist Colony — a popular attraction during the 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition.

Zoro Garden Nudist Colony Fence 1935 ExpositionBack in 1935, the Nudist Colony featured furless male and female performers lounging, playing volleyball and other games, and performing a quasi-religious ritual to the “sun god” in the sunken Zoro Garden, next to what is today the Casa de Balboa. Exposition visitors could pay a few bones to have an unobstructed view from the bleachers or poke their snout through knotholes in the fence for free.

Undoubtedly aware that revising such a performance for the Centennial may not be as well received in 2015, Balboa Park officials are keeping the fences down to stage a series of family-friendly theatrical performances in the Zoro Garden over the next two weekends.

Presented in cooperation with the San Diego Park and Recreation Department, the Garden Theatre Festival features a series of short theater pieces beginning at 2pm on August 8, 9, 15, and 16. One of the highlights is a fully clothed (in 1960s costumes) version of Shakespeare’s A Mid-Summer Night's Dream on August 8 and 9 at 4pm. Other performances include “Scenes from Shakespeare” and an abridged version of the classic Greek tragedy “Trojan Women.”

Seating for the Garden Theatre Festival is BYOFC, as in “bring your own folding chair,” and leashed pets are always welcome in Balboa Park gardens. Speaking of which, I wonder if the 1935 Nudist Colony could’ve been revised this year if the organizers had simply replaced humans with canine performers, since pooches don’t seem to offend people as much when not wearing any clothes. Something to think about for the 2035 anniversary anyway.

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With just over a week to go before submissions are due for Top Dog Photo Contest on August 7, my inbox is once again overflowing with questions about the rules. So to ensure none of my readers run afoul of the rules and find themselves in the judges’ doghouse, I’ve pulled together a list of my responses to the most frequently asked questions:

Balboa Park Top Dog Photo Contest Third Place Winner 2014 Charlie BrownI can’t decide which fabulous photo of my pup to submit. Can I submit more than one?

It probably wouldn’t be any easier for our judges to decide for you. Unfortunately multiple pictures of the same pooch will disqualify all of your submissions.

I have more than one photogenic dog in my pack. Can I submit a photo of each one?

Technically that is permitted, but you risk splitting the vote, especially if more than one of your photos makes it to the online voting phase.

A photo I submitted to a previous Top Dog contest didn’t get enough votes to win a prize. Can I resubmit?

There’s likely a very good reason your photo either didn’t make it past the judges into the top 25 or didn’t earn enough votes to win. So no, photos entered in previous contests are not eligible. But please feel free to snap and submit a new photo of the same dog.

My pooch won a prize a few years ago, but my new dog is even more fetching. Can I submit a photo to this year’s contest?

Congratulations on your earlier win! Unfortunately it just wouldn’t be fair to the other pooches if such a seasoned doggie photographer was permitted to win again. So no, previous winners are no longer eligible to enter this photo contest.

My dogs are inseparable. Can I submit a photo with more than one of my dogs in it?

Since this is a contest to determine the Top Dog in Balboa Park, photos of packs or pairs of pooches are not eligible.

I took an amazing photo of my dog in Balboa Park, but there’s another pooch and person just entering the frame. Can I crop them out?

Yes, absolutely! Certain image modifications are permitted (cropping, sharpening, red-eye removal, filters to clean up the image and to give it a more natural appearance). However, adding or replacing objects, using artistic filters (e.g. color tints, atmospheric haze, etc.), and adding a frame or border to the image are not allowed.

If you stlll don’t understand what I’m barking about, please read the complete Top Dog Photo Contest Rules (click on “Contest Rules” and “Terms” buttons at bottom of page). In fact, anyone participating should probably read them anyway.

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Cosmos Blog, Ask Cosmos, Balboa Park, TJ the dog on a surf boardTJ writes: Cowabunga, Cosmos! Surf’s up this summer, so daylight hours are more precious than ever. But my family and I don’t want to completely miss out on all the special activities going on for the Balboa Park Centennial. What would you suggest?

Cosmos: There’s no need to spend your summer nights barking at the moon over “not enough hours in the day,” TJ. In fact, with the Balboa Park Centennial Celebration comes a huge assortment of after-hours entertainment activities. Leading the pack are several music series (both new and familiar), extended evening hours at many of your family’s favorite museums, and not just one, but three free outdoor film series.

Museum of Photographic Arts, viewed at nightHeadlining this year’s diverse concert lineup is the new Centennial Preview Concert Series, which teams up with the terrier-ific Twilight in the Park concert series to extend the Centennial experience another full hour on select weekday nights.

Of particular note is the Family Day preview event preceding the San Diego Civic Dance performance on Thursday, July 23. Sponsored by San Diego Park & Rec, the Family Day event, starting at 5:30pm, will feature Centennial-themed activities for pups of all ages. Then on August 4, prior to the Heliotrope concert, will be an evening of antique cars, barbershop quartets, and dancing lessons to help bring 1915 to life!

Your bipedal packmates will also want the heads up on how many more museums are offering extended evening hours this summer. Days of the week and hours vary by museum. Suffice it to say, no one will have to take precious time from their “day job” to catch the Centennial’s humungous wave of exhibitions, including Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland at the San Diego Museum of Art (open late on Friday), 7 Billion Others at the Museum of Photographic Arts (open late on Thursday), and Circus: Science Under the Big Top at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (open until at least 6pm most days).

Making for the perfect Centennial summer night cap are three different free outdoor film series this year, including the Old Globe’s Shakespeare Film Festival, The San Diego Museum of Art’s annual Film in the Garden series, and the new Outdoor International Film Festival in Spreckels Organ Pavilion. As with any free event with limited seating, it’s advisable to arrive early to mark your territory.

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