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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

There is so much going on at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion this summer that I’ve decided to pitch a pup tent inside the historic music venue so I don’t miss a single note. The steady stream of summer concerts at the home of “The World’s Largest Outdoor Pipe Organ” officially kicks off with the final installment of the Parkeology event series on Friday, June 10, from 8 to 10:15pm.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion, close up view of organ pipesTitled “Organ for the Senses: Feeling, Seeing & Sounding the Spreckels Pipe Organ,” the experimental music concert unleashes newly commissioned electro-acoustic compositions by local and nationally renowned musicians on all the senses. The 10-minute compositions are vibrationally driven (rather than melodic) to highlight the physical properties of the organ itself. A live seismograph projection will allow the audience to “see” the physical vibrations of the audio during each piece.

So for the first time in the 100-year history of the Spreckels Organ, audience members will not only be able to hear, but also to feel and see the vibrations that the organ’s massive pipes produce. Tickets for this once-in-lifetime concert start at FREE.

Launched in February 2016, Parkeology is an interactive public event series created by Art Ranger Kate Clark that digs up little-known aspects of Balboa Park. So far it has scratched the complex underbelly of the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and uncovered a theatrical nudist colony that once inhabited Zoro Garden. The unique five-part project also includes a TV series, podcast, and youth program in collaboration with the San Diego Art Institute.

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Humans aren’t so different from canines: they work like a dog all week long, come home on Friday evening dog tired, and want nothing more than to enjoy a gourmet meal without doing any additional work. I totally get that, speaking as a pooch who has never had to prepare her own gourmet meal.

Food Truck Friday logoThat’s why I’m very excited to report that the summer-long Food Truck Friday is officially here! Beginning June 3, the Balboa Park Conservancy is bringing 8-10 gourmet food trucks to the Plaza de Panama on Friday evenings from 4:30 to 8:30pm as part of a full evening of fun activities in conjunction with Park After Dark. The food trucks will be in the Plaza this Friday and then on June 17 before becoming a weekly occurrence every Friday from July 1 to September 2.

The participating food trucks have been hand selected for their quality and variety, and will rotate throughout the summer. The truck selection for June 3 includes the following mouthwatering options:

  • Beachin’ Boba
  • Caribbean Escape
  • Cousins Maine Lobster
  • Frida’s Cocina
  • Marcel Belgian Waffle
  • New Orleans Cuisine and Catering
  • New York on Rye
  • Sweet Treats Ice Cream Motorcycle Sidecar
  • Tacos y Mariscos El Jefe
  • Tabe BBQ

While enjoying their truck-fresh appetizers, main dishes, and desserts, foodies will be treated to a rotating selection of live musical entertainment at each Food Truck Friday event. This Friday’s entertainment features the talented pups of the School of Creative and Performing Arts Jazz Ensemble.

In between bites, visitors can check out what’s going on at the various Balboa Park museums, 10 of which will be open until 8pm as part of the new Park After Dark program. Most museums will be charging their normal admission rates; however, the nearby San Diego Museum of Art is offering special $5 admission rates after 5pm on Fridays.

Booze hounds will also be pleased to know that craft cocktails and beers will be available at the Panama 66 restaurant (right on the Plaza) and at the Prado Restaurant, though due to local liquor laws, you won’t be able to take said beverages outside of their place of purchase.

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Most folks don’t realize the amount of canine willpower required of me to work every day in North America’s largest urban park. With so many flower beds, tree planters, and freshly mulched landscaping everywhere I turn, it’s all I can do to resist the urge to dig, dig, and dig some more.

Balboa Park Garden Party poster - red wagon filled with flowers and plantsThankfully Balboa Park’s free annual Garden Party on May 28, will offer plenty of other family-friendly activities that I can “dig” instead, starting with a Kids Wagon Parade at 9am. Led by its Grand Marshal, Councilmember Todd Gloria, the Instagram-worthy parade down the El Prado walkway will feature dozens of pups towing wagons lushly decorated with floral items I suspect they dug up from their own gardens (but you didn’t hear that from me).

Later, at 10:45am, pups can enjoy a performance by the kid-friendly folk duo of Hullabaloo in the Zoro Garden, followed by more activities for kids and butterfly releases in the Zoro Garden on the half-hour, beginning at 11:30am.

Adults who can’t resist digging around in their own gardens will find plenty of age-appropriate activities as well, including a series of free horticultural lectures on the hour in the Plaza de Panama. At 10am renowned landscape designer Greg Rubin will discuss “California Native Gardening.” Tours of Balboa Park’s gardens will be led by park rangers at 10am and 1pm, and at 11am Conservancy President and CEO Tomas Herrera-Mishler will offer an insightful look inside the historic Botanical Building.

In addition, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet will present a paw de deux and other pack-friendly dances around the Bea Evenson Fountain (between the Reuben H. Fleet and Natural History Museum) at 12:45pm, 1:45pm, and 2:45pm.

And what would a park-wide festival in Balboa Park be without the participation of a dozen hand-picked food trucks? Among the trucks making the 2016 Garden Party a feast to remember will be American Flavors, Caribbean Escape, Currywurst Frankfurt, Marcel Belgian Waffle, Super Q, Simply Fresh, Tacos La Mezcla, and Tabe BBQ.

For a complete list of food trucks, lecturers, and other Garden Party happenings, be sure to sniff over to

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Sparky the dogSparky writes: Dear Cosmos, since last Saturday’s blowout extravaganza in the Organ Pavilion to celebrate the San Diego Zoo’s 100-year anniversary, my family has been all abuzz, looking for ways to extend the celebration. What can they do in addition to visiting the Zoo itself this year?

Cosmos: As Balboa Park’s intrepid doggie blogger, I’m always digging up animal-themed exhibitions, performances, and programs in the Park to write about. Fortunately, there is never any shortage of opportunities to explore all creatures great and small at the Park’s diverse cultural attractions. But this year’s slate of zoological programming is an entirely different beast. It seems almost every Balboa Park institution is getting in on the act, whether as part of its regularly scheduled programming or as a specific tie-in to honor the Zoo’s centennial. Here’s just a snapshot of what your family should make a beeline for this summer.

Bronze Puma sculpture by Arthur Putnam, courtesy of the San Diego Museum of ArtThe Lore Behind the Roar — San Diego History Center

If you are wondering how a ragtag collection of animals left behind by the 1915 Panama California Exposition became the world’s greatest zoo, right here in San Diego, then this family-friendly trip down memory lane has all the answers. Pups will enjoy the many paws-on activities, and baby boomers will go bananas over daily screenings of classic episodes of the Zoorama TV series.

Whales: Giants of the Deep — San Diego Natural History Museum

By definition, this is the biggest animal-themed exhibition in the Park this year. Life-sized models of South Pacific whales, a 58-foot sperm whale skeleton, and a life-sized replica of a blue whale heart put my measly medium-sized dog frame to shame. Later this fall, a new exhibition at the Nat titled The Machine Inside: Biomechanics will show how animal evolution is this planet’s greatest innovator.

Beauty and the Beast: The Animal in Photography – Museum of Photographic Arts

Joining the pride later this month (on May 28), this diverse photography exhibition captures the best side of many of your favorite four-legged and feathered friends, revealing the multitude of ways that animals have been featured in fine art photography.

Ferocious Bronze: The Animal Sculptures of Arthur Putnam — The San Diego Museum of Art

The largely self-taught artist Arthur Putnam cut his teeth sketching animals as a frequent visitor to zoos. He turned these into dynamic, impressionistic bronze sculptures reminiscent of Rodin. Luckily for us, the Spreckels family donated 100 of these works to the brand new Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego in 1925, 28 of which are now on view in recognition of the Zoo centennial.

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Unless you were hibernating throughout 2015, you know that Balboa Park was the place to be all last year as dozens of special programs and events celebrated the Balboa Park Centennial. What you may not realize, thousands of critters at the San Diego Zoo were champing at the bit to celebrate their own 100-year anniversary in 2016.

San Diego Zoo Centennial logo, colorful lion head graphicIn fact, a number of my four-legged friends from the Zoo will take part in the free Centennial Community Event this Saturday, May 14, at 6pm in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and Plaza de Panama. One hundred years in the making, the spectacular event will feature crafts, hands-on activities, and face painting for pups. Dr. Zoolittle will lead the crowd in setting a Guinness World Record – though the exact nature of the record is a bit unclear, so dress accordingly. The evening’s entertainment will also feature live animal presentations by Zookeeper Rick, dancers, and various musical acts.

Headlining the festivities is the Grammy- and Tony-award winning chanteuse Heather Headley who will perform in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion at 8pm with a live orchestra. (Perhaps not so coincidentally, Heather made a name for herself on Broadway playing Nala in the greatest musical ever produced, The Lion King.)

Joining the celebration, The San Diego Museum of Art and Museum of Photographic Arts will be open late and offer free admission after 5pm.

Of course, no blowout celebration honoring one of San Diego’s most iconic organizations would be complete without plenty of food trucks to feed the entire herd. Among the dozen participating food trucks will be New Orleans Food Truck, Seoul Man, Bella Vita Pizza, Sun & Sea Mexican Seafood, Slider House, and Sushi Uno. I would say “Hot dog!” except I didn’t see a single hot dog food truck on the list, though I’m sure I’ll make do.

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