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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Marketers do everything they can these days to get a leg up on their competition. As a result, marketing buzzwords tend to come and go like a hashtag in a social media feed. Yet I can’t help but think the word “eventizing” was coined to describe what the International Summer Organ Festival has been doing for over a quarter century.

International Summer Organ Festival 2014, Balboa ParkWhat else would you call presenting a diverse range of top dog musicians from around the globe under the stars on one of the world’s largest outdoor organs that also happens to be 100 years old and situated in the largest urban cultural park in North America? And if that wasn’t enough “eventizing,” the weekly concerts are free, pet friendly, and the perfect place for a family picnic!

But wait! There’s more! as commercials for my favorite as-seen-on-TV pet products always say.

In addition to playing a distinctive style and genre of organ music at each Monday night concert, certain festival performers eventize their own event. Take next week’s performance on June 30 for instance, when Monte Maxwell from the United States Naval Academy performs with the Navy Band Southwest, one of the U.S. Navy’s finest and oldest continuing musical organizations.

Then on July 14, rising star organist Wyatt Smith is joined by soprano Priti Gandhi. The following week (July 21), San Diego Civic Organist Emeritus Robert Plimpton brings along special guest Marco Labastida, a tenor. And on July 28, Danish organist Sven Ingvart-Mikkelsen offers a program from medieval times to the present with bombarde player Jens Roemer.

As always, the 10-week series is capped off by the alpha concert events of the summer in Balboa Park: Silent Movie Night on August 18, when Scottish organist Donald McKenzie accompanies projections of two classic silent films, and the festival finale on August 25, featuring San Diego’s current Civic Organist, Dr. Carol Williams, who performs with the Moonlight Serenade Orchestra.

Since advertisers tend to chase their own tails more often than not when it comes to (re-)inventing the latest fad, it’s nice to know some programs are buzz worthy based solely on their own merits.

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Tucker and Sophia write: Dear Cosmos, You’d think since we are from the same pack, Tucker and I would share the same tastes in art, music, and entertainment, but we often fight like cats and dogs whenever we have to decide on something to do. What do you suggest?

Cosmos: Sounds like someone needs to step up and assume the role of pack leader in your home. But until that happens, the best way to avoid tearing up the furniture over where to go next is to simply plan on checking out the free Twilight in the Park concerts on summer weeknights.

Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night through August 28, a different musical act, representing a completely different style of music, performs live on the Spreckels Organ Pavilion stage.

Twilight in the Park concerts, Balboa Park, crop of photo by Joanne DiBonaGranted, not every musical style will suit the tastes of all your fellow packmates on any given night. But what’s not to enjoy about sharing a picnic supper while listening to fun, uptempo music in a historic landmark as the sun sets over Balboa Park’s picturesque scenery? And who knows? You might even discover a new genre of music to download to your iPaw.

Taking a quick glance at this summer’s line up, I see plenty of returning and personal favorites of mine. In the coming week alone, I’m already marking my calendar, among other things, for the tropical rock and roll band Stars on the Water on Wednesday, June 18, and the always popular Elvis Presley Tribute Band, Graceland, the following Thursday.

Then next Tuesday, local legends the Bayou Brothers perform their unique Cajun/Zydeco music on June 24, followed by Cool Fever, covering classic R&B and Motown tunes, on June 25.

July and August promise an even greater variety of music at least one of you is sure to dig. If not, please send me a private message so I can refer you to a good pet therapist.

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When it comes to summertime, I’m an equal opportunity concert hound — especially when those concerts are free, family-friendly, and outdoors. It makes no difference to me whether the music is rock, country, Cajun, or classical, whether it’s on a weekday or weekend, or whether the concerts take place in the historic Spreckels Organ Pavilion or on a lawn at the fringes of Balboa Park’s vast 1,200-acre footprint.

Nevertheless, as much as I dig the International Summer Organ Festival and the Twilight in the Park concert series, there is a very special community vibe that only the Bird Park Summer Concerts can offer. A dozen years in the making, these bi-weekly Saturday evening concerts draw hundreds of residents, and their pooches, from the surrounding Morley Field and North Park neighborhoods.

Located in a small community park at the corner of Upas and 28th Streets, concert seating is open and sur l’herbe, which facilitates my mingling and scavenging efforts. But it’s the top dog local performers, from a variety of genres, that are the real attraction.

In fact, kicking off this year’s summer concert season in Balboa Park on June 14 is none other than the king of the local blues scene himself, Bill Magee and his band. For you lazy dogs who can’t be bothered with clicking the link above, here is the complete Bird Park Summer Concerts schedule:

June 14 — Bill Magee Blues Band

June 28 — The Craig Ingraham Band (folk)

July 12 — The Ballad Mongers (indie rock)

July 26 — Mark Jackson Band (country)

Aug 9 — Bayou Brothers feat. Robin Henkel (Zydeco/folk)

Concerts run from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, offering ample time for dancing, dining, and making new friends.

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Cabrillo Bridge, Balboa Park, roadway openEven though having the historic Cabrillo Bridge closed to traffic over the past five months presented some unique opportunities to change my routine, my tail has not stopped wagging since its reopening on Monday.

While crews continue to work like dogs to complete the important retrofitting of the bridge’s main support arches and other aesthetic enhancements, the roadway over the bridge is once again allowing for quick and easy access for any and all vehicles.

Why would this matter to a dog, who is inexplicably prohibited by state law from owning and operating a motorized vehicle? Here are my top five reasons:

  1. Most scenic drive in San Diego — One of my most memorable experiences as a pup was the first time I was driven over the bridge in the family car, under the archway through the Museum of Man’s picturesque courtyard, and on to the many other wonders Balboa Park’s Central Mesa had in store.
  2. More cars and bikes to chase — Though I’m actually on a leash while sipping cappuccinos in the Plaza de Panama courtyard, the returning stream of cars and bicycles really gets my juices flowing and ready for a leash-free run through one of Balboa Park’s many dog parks. Speaking of which …
  3. Quicker access to Nate Point’s Dog Park— Yes, I realize the nearest dog park really isn’t that far from the Central Mesa area. But when you gotta go, you gotta go. And when that happens, I can now resume hitching a ride for a speedy return to some of my favorite sniffing grounds.
  4. Resurfaced roadway — With the retrofitting came a completely resurfaced road across the bridge. Not only does the new pavement look nicer, but fewer bumps in the road mean fewer accidents when I’m being rushed to Nate’s Point to take care of urgent business.
  5. It’ll be open for another 100 years! — That’s not to say there won’t be times when the bridge will be closed for additional maintenance or for special events. But at least we know that the earthquake retrofitting work completed during the closure will help ensure the Cabrillo Bridge continues to serve as a spectacular link between Balboa Park’s Central and West Mesas (and Nate’s Point Dog Park).
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It looks like the barking heads in Washington are no longer dragging their tails when it comes to bringing the troops home from Afghanistan this year. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, there’s no denying that all our returning service members and their families deserve a hero’s welcome, whether they call San Diego home or are just passing through for some much needed R&R.

If there weren’t already a million reasons for men and women in uniform to scout Balboa Park’s amenities this summer, the Blue Star Museum program is adding one more: free admission at participating museums for active duty military personnel, including National Guard and Reserve, and up to five family members through Labor Day.

Over 2,000 museums and cultural attractions across America, including a dozen in San Diego, are participating in this year’s program, and many of those museums are right here in Balboa Park:

  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Mingei International Museum
  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • San Diego Hall of Champions
  • San Diego History Center
  • The San Diego Museum of Art
  • Veterans Museum and Memorial Center

Summertime is always the best time to see top dog exhibitions in Balboa Park, and this summer is no exception. At the San Diego History Center, for instance, military families can see the unprecedented collaborative exhibition Presidio to Pacific Powerhouse: How the Military Shaped San Diego and its satellite display at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center.

The San Diego Museum of Art is rolling out two blockbuster shows this summer: Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain and Sorolla and America. On June 21, the Mingei International Museum opens the very cool Surf Craft — Design and the Culture of Board Riding, and the Museum of Photographic Arts explores the legacy of the legendary photographer Ansel Adams in After Ansel Adams — to mention a few highlights.

Of course the only active duty service dogs permitted in museums are those certified to accompany people with disabilities.

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