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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

I double dog dare you to name one instance where you can still get two for the price of one when that price is always free. Give up? How about a free Twilight in the Park concert followed by a free movie as part of the new Outdoor International Film Series every Thursday night during the month of July?

Outdoor International Film Series 2015, Balboa Park, Bollywood dancersFor those of us old enough to remember the double feature at the drive-in movie theater, the baseball game double header, and the double-scoop mint and chip ice cream cone at the drugstore, it’s nice to know some treats still double your pleasure and ask for nothing in return. Leave it to the many organizations honoring the Balboa Park Centennial to do just that.

Beginning July 9, families attending the free Thursday night Twilight in the Park concert featuring Stoney B. Blues, starting at 6:30pm in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, will want to keep their haunches in their seats for the second feature of the night, Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. Bounding with energy and music, the colorful film presents a mash up of Bollywood “greatest hits” moments.

Co-presented by Pacific Arts Movement and SDG&E, the other films in this summer’s Outdoor International Film Series are

Messi (July 16) — On the heels of the Dixie Express swing music performance, Messi is a unique documentary/biopic that explores what makes the Argentinean soccer star Lionel Messi the best player (on two legs) in the world.

The Italian Character (July 23) — The perfect cultural smorgasbord for everyone in your pack, the evening starts with a Centennial Concert Preview family day event at 5:30pm, hosted by San Diego Park and Rec, followed by a San Diego Civic Dance performance, and capped off by a look inside Rome’s Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, one of the 10 best orchestras in the world.

Collection of Short Films (July 30) — Last but not leashed, Uncle Bob & the Earth Movers serve as the opening act to a night of short films from the San Diego Asian, Latino, and Italian Film Festivals (the film series co-sponsors), ideal for the attention-span impaired.

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So you’ve packed up your pack and are driving to beautiful San Diego for a fun-filled July 4 weekend. Wise decision, except you may have inadvertently put beaches and animal theme parks at the top of your itinerary not realizing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you have to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of one of the most significant events in Southern California history. I’m of course barking about the 1915 Panama-California Exposition that put Balboa Park and San Diego on the world map.

Being the lucky dog you are, the mid-point in the year-long Centennial Celebrations calendar presents a unique confluence of some of the biggest exhibitions and activities of 2015 in Balboa Park. This step-by-step itinerary will help you get the most out of your long holiday weekend.

Cat in the Hat drawing, The Ingenious Dr. Seuss, San Diego History CenterStep 1: Stop by the Balboa Park Visitors Center to fetch a Multi-Day Explorer Pass for you, your mate, and everyone in your litter.

Step 2: Head over to the San Diego History Center to view a brief documentary on Balboa Park’s history and to sniff out three important Centennial-themed exhibitions: San Diego Invites the World: The 1915 Expo, Masterworks: Art of the Exposition Era,and The Ingenious Dr. Seuss.

Step 3: Hightail it to the Mingei International Museum to reconnect with your American roots through two colorful displays of Americana: Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum and Black Dolls from the Collection of Deborah Neff, which closes July 5.

Step 4: Swing by the always-free Timken Museum of Art to take a quick gander at the world-famous painting by Johannes Vermeer, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, on special loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Step 5: Take a load off your paws by relaxing in the new Plaza de Panama Living Room, where on Saturday at 1pm you can enjoy a free music performance as part of the Music in the Park series.

Step 6: Instead of or in addition to Step 5, slip into the nearby Panama 66 outdoor café to sample some of the best offerings of San Diego’s award-winning craft beer industry in the historic San Diego Museum of Art sculpture garden.

Step 7: Celebrate the Fourth of July at an American-style picnic at the House of Hospitality Lawn Program, hosted by the good ol’ House of USA on Saturday, 12–4pm, and Sunday, 2–3pm.

Step 8: If you aren’t dog-tired yet from a full-day, or you are on Day 2 of your visit, it’s time to free roam the dozens of other park attractions and museums to see such pup-friendly exhibitions as Circus: Science Under the Big Top at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Coast to Cactus in Southern California at the San Diego Natural History Museum, and 2theXtreme—MathAlive! at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

If after all that you still haven’t seen and heard enough, visit for a complete listing of other Centennial activities in Balboa Park.

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Spreckels Organ Pavilion at Night, International Summer Organ Festival 2015While dozens of exhibitions, events, concert series, and performances are taking part in the Balboa Park Centennial Celebrations, only a rare breed of organizations or venues in the Park can claim to be celebrating their own centennial. So when the International Summer Organ Festival adds the word “Centennial” to the name of its annual concert series, it isn’t merely piggy-backing on the year-long recognition of the 100-year anniversary of the 1915 Panama California Exposition.

Representing one of the few original buildings still standing in Balboa Park from that era, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion officially opened the 1915 Exposition with its inaugural concert on New Year’s Eve 1914. Maintaining its pedigree as a central component of the 1915 fair, the Organ Pavilion takes center stage in 2015 with a lineup of top dog organists from around the world performing Monday nights at 7:30pm through August 31 as part of the Centennial International Summer Organ Festival.

As usual, the pack-friendly free series will broaden everyone’s expectations and understanding of organ music with a wide diversity of styles, genres, and special guest accompaniment. For example, next Monday’s concert features every San Diego pooch’s favorite Civic Organist, Dr. Carol Williams. She’ll perform a selection of her own modern compositions as part of a release party for her new CD “Just Carol—Compositions.”

The following Monday, July 6, Christian Elliot, who was named “Organist of the Year” in 2009 by the American Theatre Organ Society, will cap off a long Independence Day Holiday weekend with a variety of claw-tapping, howl-along patriotic tunes. On July 13, prolific music composer A. D. Miller presents among other original compositions his “Fanfare for a New Century,” commissioned for the 100-year anniversary of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Other weekly installments include local rising pups (July 20), organists from Europe and Canada, a Grammy winner, returning favorites, the always popular Silent Movie Night (Aug. 24), and a finale celebrating “100 Years of Broadway” (Aug. 31) during which Dr. Carol Williams will be joined by some very special guest performers.

For lazy dogs who can’t muster the energy to come see the weekly performances in person, every concert can be streamed live on Ustream (where past concerts are archived for the next 100 years).

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Cosmos Blog, Ask Cosmos, Twilight in the Park, Babe and PudgeBabe and Pudge write: Dear Cosmos, Ever since you featured us at a Twilight in the Park concert event seven years ago, we feel like we’ve seen and heard everything. Will the annual concert series give us any new reasons to dust off our poodle skirts and hush puppies this summer?

Cosmos: I wasn’t aware one needed “reasons” to break out poodle skirts and hush puppies. For those who do need them, I can think of at least 35 reasons — one each for the number of years the Twilight in the Park concert series has been treating families of all shapes and stripes to free evening concert events at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Among those reasons, one of the best is select concerts this summer will feature a full hour of special thematic activities prior to the main act in honor of the Balboa Park Centennial. 

For example on Thursday June 18, everyone in your pack can sniff out an antique car display, barbershop quartet music, dancing lessons, and information booths on Balboa Park history one hour before the 6:30pm Hillcrest Wind Ensemble concert. And then on Wednesday July 1, the Chula Vista Mariachi concert will be preceded by a performance of ballet folklorico dancers.

Later in the month, on July 23, the San Diego Park and Recreation Department, a co-organizer for the entire series, will present fun activities for every pup in your litter at a special Family Day event prior to the San Diego Civic Dance performance.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be reasons to attend the many other concerts in the series. In fact, I see at least two prime opportunities to slip on your poodle skirts during the month of July: on July 8 when Breez’n performs its eclectic range of classic rock and R&B, and then on July 15 when Cool Fever presents favorite dance tunes from the Motown and Swing eras.

Be sure to scout out the complete Twilight in the Park calendar to discover even more reasons to enjoy these lively community gatherings.

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With the announcement of all the other great concert series in Balboa Park this summer in celebration of the Centennial, it wouldn’t surprise me if one other long-running music series in the Park is feeling like the runt of the litter.

For 14 summers, the Bird Park Concert Series has brought howling good shows to Morley Field’s Bird Park, making the picturesque North Park neighborhood a popular Saturday destination well before the first craft brewery opened here. In fact, this year’s five-concert line up promises to bring such intoxicating tunes, concert goers won’t even mind the city park’s alcohol ban.

The series kicks off this Saturday, June 13, at 5:30pm with the high-energy folk rock band, A Mayfield Affair. Like all bands invited to perform in Bird Park each summer, their music is danceable and pack friendly. Leashed pooches are also welcome and will be in good company, since this is, after all, North Park, home to two of Balboa Park’s dog parks.

Every other Saturday, a new act will hit the stage, overlooking the municipal golf course and downtown skyline. On June 27, The BlueFrog Band presents its unique fusion of blues-folk-rock music, followed by another feel-good rock and roll band, DNT, on July 11. The remaining concerts in the series include Piel (electronic-techno) on July 25 and the Scott Martin Band (Latin jazz) on August 8.

All concerts run until 7:30pm, giving folks plenty of time to sniff out the many restaurants and tasting rooms that have sprouted up along 30th Street since the Bird Park Concert Series started.

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