Festivals, fun and blossoms in Balboa Park!

Dancers entertain visitors to Balboa Park as the House of China celebrates the New Year at the International Cottages.
Dancers entertain visitors to Balboa Park as the House of China celebrates Chinese New Year at the International Cottages.

It’s February already, and beginning to feel a tiny bit like spring!

Visitors to Balboa Park today could enjoy many wonderful experiences: the Chinese New Year Festival . . . the International Dance Festival . . . and even a few early cherry blossoms!

As I walked in sunshine and scattered sprinkles, I took many photos.

Colorful young dancers on stage celebrate the Chinese New Year in San Diego.
Colorful young dancers on stage celebrate the Chinese New Year in San Diego.
Food, culture and sunshine (and some sprinkling clouds) at the Chinese New Year Festival in Balboa Park.
Food, culture and sunshine (and scattered, sprinkling clouds) at the Chinese New Year Festival in Balboa Park.
A glimpse of the El Cid statue in Balboa Park on a spring-like Sunday in February.
A glimpse of the El Cid statue in Balboa Park on a springlike Sunday in February.
Sunshine on bubbles.
Sunshine on bubbles.
There's plenty of bright green down in the Balboa Park Rube Powell Archery Range.
There’s plenty of bright green down in the Balboa Park Rube Powell Archery Range.
A beautiful photo between the House of Hospitality and Casa de Balboa.
A beautiful photo between the House of Hospitality and Casa de Balboa.
Prado Perk's chalkboard indicates it's almost Valentine's Day!
Prado Perk’s chalkboard indicates it’s almost Valentine’s Day!
Athletes in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association gather during a time out during the Third Annual Brad Rich Invitational at Balboa Municipal Gymnasium.
Athletes in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association gather during a time out during the Third Annual Brad Rich Invitational at Balboa Municipal Gymnasium.
The ornamental pear trees are blooming near the Plaza de Balboa.
The ornamental pear trees are blooming near the Plaza de Balboa.
Members of the San Diego Bonsai Club work on small olive trees in the Casa del Prado.
Members of the San Diego Bonsai Club work on small olive trees in the Casa del Prado.
I spotted Captain America in the cafe of the Federal Building, future home of the Comic-Con Museum! (He's actually a cool member of San Diego's Science Fiction Coalition!)
I spotted Captain America in the cafe of the Federal Building, future home of the Comic-Con Museum! (He’s actually a member of San Diego’s Science Fiction Coalition.)
A beautiful spring-like day on El Prado.
A beautiful springlike day on El Prado.
I was welcomed to the International Dance Festival in the Balboa Park Club.
I was welcomed to the International Dance Festival in the Balboa Park Club.
Flags of many nations follow a bagpiper through Balbo Park as the annual International Dance Festival is about to begin.
Flags of many nations follow a bagpiper through Balboa Park as the annual International Dance Festival is about to begin.
Colorful banners approach the Balboa Park Club.
Colorful banners approach the Balboa Park Club.
Folk dancing begins!
Folk dancing is ready to begin!
A banner of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.
A banner of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.
Meanwhile, folks walk through the always beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden.
Meanwhile, folks walk through the always beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden.
Looks to me like spring is coming!
Looks to me like spring is coming fast!
A few early cherry blossoms are blooming in February at the Japanese Friendship Garden.
A few early cherry blossoms are blooming in February at the Japanese Friendship Garden.
Spring is around the corner!
Yes! Spring is around the corner!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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Photos of North Park’s Day of the Dead festival!

The 2nd Annual Day of the Dead North Park Festival had a couple blocks of Ray Street overflowing with color and life!
The 2nd Annual Day of the Dead North Park Festival had a couple blocks of Ray Street overflowing with color and life!

Today I checked out the Day of the Dead festival in North Park!

The annual festival, which is only in its second year, was held on two blocks of Ray Street just south of University Avenue. I couldn’t believe the size of the crowd enjoying this relatively modest event celebrating Día de los Muertos!

All of the cherished Day of the Dead traditions could be found, including a large, beautiful altar and lots of face painting, and, of course, some elegantly dressed Catrinas strolling about. There was also abundant Mexican music, themed artwork and yummy food!

This is definitely a festival that should grow in popularity!

Many costumes celebrating Día de los Muertos (and also Halloween) could be seen about the fun North Park festival.
Many costumes celebrating Día de los Muertos (and also Halloween) could be seen about the fun North Park festival.
Boy poses for photo as a Day of the Dead skeleton with top hat.
Boy poses for photo as a Day of the Dead skeleton with top hat.
A traditional Día de los Muertos altar remembers loved ones who've passed from this life.
A traditional Día de los Muertos altar remembers loved ones who’ve passed from this life.
Kids and adults could color a calavera, or decorative skull.
Kids and adults could color a calavera, or decorative skull.
Lots of Day of the Dead themed merchandise could be found at various vendor booths about the festival.
Lots of Day of the Dead merchandise could be found at various vendor tables about the festival.
Some Día de los Muertos items for sale included Catrina dolls, orange marigolds and colorful calaveras.
Some Día de los Muertos items for sale included Catrina dolls, orange marigolds and colorful calaveras.
Many faces at the festival had been painted to resemble sugar skulls.
Many faces at the festival had been painted to resemble sugar skulls.
All sorts of characters from the popular culture have been transformed into Day of the Dead refrigerator magnets.
Characters from the popular culture have been transformed into these Day of the Dead refrigerator magnets!
I see a shirt with a Mexican lucha libre wrestling mask. Seems appropriate in this photo!
I see a hanging shirt printed with the image of a Mexican lucha libre mask. Seems appropriate in this photo!
Another small altar (or ofrenda) included photos of deceased loved ones, papel picado, and pan de muerto.
Another small altar (or ofrenda) includes photos of deceased loved ones, papel picado, and pan de muerto.
Mariachis performed joyful music for the crowd at one end of the city block.
Mariachis performed joyful music for the crowd at one end of the city block.
Día de los Muertos is celebrated in North Park. It's a new local tradition that promises to grow ever more popular!
Día de los Muertos is celebrated in North Park. It’s a new local tradition that promises to grow even more popular!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Photos of Vista’s Annual Viking Festival!

Ready for combat, warriors file through the 16th Annual Viking Festival in Vista, California.
Ready for combat, warriors file through the 16th Annual Viking Festival in Vista, California.

Today I headed up to Vista to enjoy the 16th Annual Viking Festival, which is being held this weekend in and around Norway Hall.

This very popular festival features everything Norse, including costumes, crafts, cultural demonstrations, live music on two stages, and a wide variety of spirited competitions. There’s a Viking Beard Competition, a Viking Horn Blowing contest, a Kids Fish Fling, a Guardians of Midgard Chest Game, and an epic All Weapons Tournament. Although I didn’t stay to watch, I learned that Saturday evening concludes with spectacular flaming axe throwing!

I arrived shortly after the gate opened, then wandered about taking it all in before the festival became extremely crowded.

Here come a bunch of photos!

The Vista Viking Festival continues on Sunday. If you’re in the area, you might want to head on over yourself! If you don’t care for big crowds, come early!

The very popular Vista Viking Festival attracts thousands of visitors every year.
The very popular Vista Viking Festival attracts thousands of visitors every year.
I was given a hearty welcome by these noble members of The Norwegian Fish Club, who meet in Vista's Norway Hall and put on the festival.
I was given a hearty welcome by these noble members of The Norwegian Fish Club, who meet in Vista’s Norway Hall and put on the festival.
The Norwegian Fish Club serves as a forum for persons attached to Norway, its history or mythology. Officers and various members dress in Viking attire!
The Norwegian Fish Club serves as a forum for persons attached to Norway, its history or mythology. Officers and various members dress in Viking attire!
Shortly after I entered the Viking Festival, I spotted this rather unusual longship!
Shortly after I entered the Viking Festival, I spotted this rather unusual longship!
It appears I've entered Viking territory!
It appears I’ve entered Vikings territory!
In addition to crafts and artwork, some of the vendors sell swords, axes and other weapons used by Norsemen long ago.
In addition to crafts and artwork, some of the vendors sell swords, axes and other weapons used by fierce Norsemen long ago.
A basket full of plastic two-horned Viking helmets.
A basket full of plastic two-horned Viking helmets.
Norway Hall in Vista is where locals gather to share unique culture and history from old Scandinavia.
Norway Hall in Vista is where locals gather to share unique culture and history from old Scandinavia.
Food and entertainment are plentiful at the Annual Viking Festival.
Food and entertainment are plentiful at the Annual Viking Festival.
I hadn't realized that Vikings ate hot dogs!
I hadn’t realized that Vikings ate hot dogs!
The festival's Northern Territory is where the Viking clans camp. Demonstrations and reenactments can be enjoyed by curious visitors.
The festival’s Northern Territory is where the Viking clans camp. Demonstrations and reenactments can be enjoyed by curious visitors.
These folk show what life might have been like in parts of northern Europe during the Viking Age.
These folk show what life might have been like in parts of northern Europe during the Viking Age.
A lady at work making Viking crafts.
A lady at work making Viking crafts.
This friendly Viking welcomed me to his camp. Various groups actually camp in the park-like setting around Norway Hall during the weekend of the festival.
This friendly Viking gent welcomed me to his camp. Various groups actually camp in the park-like setting around Norway Hall during the weekend of the festival.
Signs explained different aspect of Norse mythology, including Valhalla, a great hall in Asgard, where fallen heroes assemble, ruled over by Odin.
Signs explained different aspects of Norse mythology, including Valhalla, a great hall in Asgard, where fallen heroes assemble and are ruled over by Odin.
The singing group Damekor performs on the Loke Stage during the Viking Festival.
The singing group Damekor performs on the Loke Stage during the Viking Festival.
Hair braiding could be observed everywhere. I was told the length of a Viking's hair was often proportionate to their social status. Elaborate braids would be tended by servants.
Hair braiding could be observed everywhere. I was told the length of a Viking’s hair was often representative of their social status. Long, elaborate braids would be “sewn together” and tended by servants.
Every sort of Viking armor, costume and dress could be found throughout the festival.
Every sort of Viking armor, costume and dress could be found throughout the festival.
One vendor created these very cool stained glass dragons.
One vendor was showing these very cool stained glass dragons.
Another vendor had magic runes for sale.
Another vendor had magic runes for sale.
Another sold lots of colorful mugs.
Another had a big inventory of very colorful mugs.
These bearded mugs resemble thirsty Viking warriors!
These funny bearded mugs resemble thirsty Viking warriors!
A metalsmith was at work in the festival's Northern Territory.
A metalsmith was at work in the festival’s Northern Territory.
So was a woodcarver. This guy was fashioning a Viking bowl, or skål, based on actual archaeological findings.
So was a woodcarver. This guy was fashioning a Viking bowl, or skål, based on actual archaeological findings.
More armor and weaponry that might have been used by warring Norsemen.
More armor and weaponry that might have been used by marauding Norsemen.
Bread was being baked in two large outdoor earthen ovens.
Bread was being baked in two large outdoor earthen ovens.
Visitors to the Viking Festival can purchase fresh bread, crumpets, scones and other goodies.
Visitors to the Viking Festival can purchase fresh bread, crumpets, scones and other goodies.
This funny warrior was guarding a Staff Only festival entry.
This funny fellow was guarding a Staff Only festival entry.
I believe this guy was making collectible Viking charms by pouring molten metal into small molds.
I believe this guy was making collectible Viking charms by pouring molten metal into small molds.
One vendor had all sorts of fantastic figurines on display. I see a couple of dragons perched on geodes.
One vendor had all sorts of fantastic, glittering figurines on display. I see a couple of dragons perched on geodes.
Visitors to the 16th Annual Viking Festival in Vista walk through the Southern Territory.
Visitors to the 16th Annual Viking Festival in Vista walk through the Southern Territory.
A Viking combat demonstration had just ended, and some festival visitors were talking to one of the participants.
A Viking combat demonstration had just ended, and some festival visitors were talking to one of the participants.
I enjoyed viewing an ongoing blacksmith demonstration at Odin's Forge.
I enjoyed viewing an ongoing blacksmith demonstration at Odin’s Forge.
Kids pose in a Viking longship for a fun photo.
Kids pose in a Viking longship for a fun photo.
At the Weapons Range, visitors to the Viking Festival can try their hand at archery, spear and axe throwing.
At the Weapons Range, visitors to the Viking Festival try their hand at archery, spear and axe throwing.
Aiming for the dragon!
Aiming for the dragon!
Cheers!
And there’s a large beer garden, too. Cheers!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A proposal: Celebrate San Diego Day!

Here’s a fun idea!

Yesterday, when I arrived for Silent Movie Night at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, I knew almost nothing about Harold Lloyd. I had no idea that this very famous silent movie actor had once lived in San Diego, and had graduated from San Diego High School perhaps a mile from where I sat. As I watched the movie, I recalled that parts of Citizen Kane, often considered the greatest movie of all time, had been filmed in Balboa Park.

And suddenly–out of the blue–a crazy idea popped into my head!

It would be incredible to have a big annual festival in Balboa Park that celebrates San Diego! An enormous parkwide event that celebrates the amazing history, culture and people of America’s Finest City!

Imagine diverse people from every community in San Diego converging on Balboa Park to celebrate our common heritage and shared optimism. Imagine the swell of civic pride and the endless opportunities for education and entertainment!

The special day would celebrate San Diego’s artists, musicians, entertainers, athletes, authors, inventors, scientists, teachers, volunteers, visionaries . . . It would celebrate those who have contributed to our fascinating culture, and honor those who are working today to create an even more dynamic future.

Balboa Park already hosts a number of fantastic annual events, such as EarthFair, Maker Faire, Fiesta Botanica, December Nights and Make Music Day. I propose a parkwide event that celebrates San Diego!

Such an event might include San Diego musicians, Mexican baile folklórico, silent movies featuring Harold Lloyd, readings from Dr. Seuss, local outdoor artists at work, lots of tasty regional food, demonstrations of past and future technologies developed in San Diego, a tribute to Jonas Salk, performances and presentations by school students, samples of Kumeyaay culture, a variety of historical reenactments. . . There might be exhibits concerning Charles Lindbergh, and the birth of naval aviation, and Juan Bandini, and Kate Sessions, and George Marston, and Gregory Peck, and Sally Ride, and Dennis Conner, and Tony Hawk, and Meb Keflezighi, and our world champion Little Leaguers, and the history of San Diego’s tuna fishing industry, and the Palomar Observatory, and Charles Hatfield, and Richard Henry Dana Jr., and Jimmie Johnson, and Tony Gwynn, and Eddie Vedder, and Switchfoot, and Joan Embery, and Alfred Mitchell, and Roger Revelle, and L. Frank Baum, and . . . and . . . and . . . and . . . you get the idea!

The event would be like a small World’s Fair–a San Diego Fair–not unlike the two Expositions held in Balboa Park a century ago for which the park is historically famous.

My guess is an annual event like this would prove enormously popular. Everyone living throughout San Diego who loves our city would be represented and interested.

Anyway–it’s an idea that might be a lot of fun.

What do you think?

A taste of the Lemon Festival in Chula Vista!

A giant smiling lemon greets me at the 22nd Annual Lemon Festival in Chula Vista!
A giant smiling lemon greets me at the 22nd Annual Lemon Festival in Chula Vista!

I’ve never been to Chula Vista’s Lemon Festival before. So this year I thought I’d take the trolley down to the South Bay to experience this big annual event!

Not only is the Lemon Festival, which takes place along a stretch of Third Avenue, a whole lot of fun, but visitors have the opportunity to learn about the history of Chula Vista and how it once was a major center of the Southern California citrus industry.

With construction of the Sweetwater Dam completed in 1888, and the arrival of the railroad in the South Bay, Chula Vista became the perfect place to grow sun-loving lemons. At one point in the early 20th century there were nearly two thousand acres of lemon groves in the area. Chula Vista even called itself the Lemon Capital of the World.

Today lemon trees are chiefly found in backyards. After World War II, the large groves began to make way for houses. Some of the developers would leave one lemon tree in the backyard of new homes.

I did see loads of lemons during the 22nd Annual Lemon Festival: lemon art, lemon costumes, lemons in treats, lemonade . . . Lemon yellow everywhere!

See for yourself!

About 50,000 people would turn out for the yearly lemon-themed event.
About 50,000 people would turn out for the yearly lemon-themed event.
These ladies had all sorts of sweet lemon treats for sale.
These ladies had all sorts of sweet lemon treats for sale.
Some friendly people from the Restored Church posed so that a blogger could take a funny photo at their booth.
Some friendly people from the Restored Church posed so that a blogger could take a funny photo at their Lemon Festival booth.
Artists at the Lemon Festival had all sorts of colorful artwork for sale that contained bright yellow.
Artists at the Lemon Festival had all sorts of colorful artwork for sale that contained bright yellow.
This lady registering people to vote had a cool lemon slice umbrella hat and smile.
This lady registering people to vote had a cool lemon slice umbrella hat and smile.
More ice cold lemonade! Sounds good on a hot summer day in San Diego's South Bay.
More ice cold lemonade! Sounds good on a hot summer day in San Diego’s South Bay.
Even this funny pooch in a wagon was selling lemonade!
Even this funny pooch in a wagon was selling lemonade!
The Chula Vista Historical Society had a booth with books and fascinating information.
The Chula Vista Historical Society had a booth with books and fascinating information.
Their display showed Chula Vista's agricultural past. Many packing companies once exported lemons around the world.
Their display showed Chula Vista’s agricultural past. Many growers and packing companies once exported lemons around the world. Some of the beautiful old crate labels have become valuable collectibles.
The display explains different grades of lemons, including culls, which were blemished, and used to make juice, furniture polish, and other by-products.
The display explains different grades of lemons, including culls, which were blemished, and used to make juice, furniture polish, and other lemon by-products.
The festival had just started and these ladies with the Third Avenue Village Association, that puts on the popular event, were putting the finishing touches on their booth.
The festival had just started and these ladies with the Third Avenue Village Association, that puts on the popular event, were almost done decorating their booth.
Another booth at the Lemon Festival had lots of old historical photographs.
Another booth at the Chula Vista Lemon Festival featured lots of interesting historical photographs.
Someone points to a photo of workers in a lemon grove at the Higgins Ranch in Keen Valley, 1901.
Someone points to a photo of workers in a lemon grove at the Higgins Ranch in Keen Valley, 1901.
Aerial photo of the Boltz lemon ranch in the mid 1920's.
Aerial photo of the Boltz lemon ranch in the mid 1920’s.
Typical Chula Vista lemon packing plant, circa 1920's.
Typical Chula Vista lemon packing plant, circa 1920’s.
Old photos of Chula Vista streetcar and train at Third Avenue.
Old photos of Chula Vista streetcar and train at Third Avenue.
Bonita lemon pickers, 1913.
Bonita lemon pickers, 1913.
Meanwhile, people spin a lemon-themed prize wheel at the festival.
Meanwhile, people spin a lemon-themed prize wheel at the festival.
At the Lemonade Bandstand, entertainment included live music, a largest lemon and lemon peel contest, a lemon costume contest, and lemon pie eating contest.
At the Lemonade Bandstand, entertainment included live music, a largest lemon and lemon peel contest, a lemon costume contest, and lemon pie eating contest.
People watch the Lemon Squeezers play rock and roll music with a twist!
People watch the Lemon Squeezers play rock and roll music with a twist!
Cool local band, the Lemon Squeezers, at the Chula Vista Lemon Festival.
Cool local band, the Lemon Squeezers, at the Chula Vista Lemon Festival.
That great music has people dancing!
That great music has people smiling and dancing!
Batman and Wonder Woman dropped on by and posed for a photo by the Lemon Bar sign.
Batman and Wonder Woman dropped on by and posed for a photo by the Lemon Bar sign.
All that fun made me thirsty for some lemonade!
All that fun has made me thirsty for some lemonade!

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Smiles and good vibes at Festival of Yoga!

Hundreds turn out for the Festival of Yoga in Waterfront Park by the County Administration Building.
Hundreds turn out for the Festival of Yoga in Waterfront Park by the County Administration Building.

I saw on the television news this morning that Pilgrimage of the Heart was hosting a free Festival of Yoga at Waterfront Park.

I happen to know a few of the people who work at Pilgrimage of the Heart. They are all super friendly, always smiling. Sending out good vibes.

Naturally, I had to begin my walk along the Embarcadero today at Waterfront Park, to see the big yoga festival.

Today is the United Nations International Day of Yoga. Look at all the people!

Pilgrimage of the Heart is the place to go if you want to learn or practice yoga in San Diego!
Pilgrimage of the Heart is the place to go if you want to learn or practice yoga in San Diego!
Lots of booths were around the central grassy area. Colorful yoga mats were everywhere.
Lots of booths were around the central grassy area. Colorful yoga mats were everywhere.
An energetic instructor poses on a platform, helping to lead the many yogis.
An energetic instructor poses on a platform, helping to lead the many yogis.
Sujantra is always smiling and super positive.
Sujantra is always smiling and super positive.
I prefer walking to yoga, but it sure looks like fun!
I prefer walking to stuff like yoga, but I confess it does look like fun!
Speaking of fun, I took this photo of the Festival of Yoga from the deck of the historic ship Star of India!
Speaking of fun, I took this photo of the Festival of Yoga from the deck of the historic ship Star of India!
Arms stretching skyward. Spirits in flight.
Arms stretching skyward. Spirits in flight.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Dancing with joy at a big Greek Festival!

Early this afternoon I headed to St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church on Park Boulevard to enjoy their annual Greek Festival. Wow!

Tables and tents in the parking lot behind the church were overflowing with yummy Greek food, laughter, smiles and good cheer. Under the big tent the music, song and dancing was nonstop. Everyone clapped to lively traditional Greek music as people spontaneously jumped up and joined hands to dance. The spirit of “Opa!” was alive!

Kids in colorful Greek costume also danced. I believe the group I watched were called the Delphinian Dancers. They were showered with money during the performance, flowing from the large audience’s sheer joy and gratitude.

The festival continues through the weekend. If you like good times, you must definitely go!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!