Smiles, life and culture at Pacific Islander Festival!

Friendly guy at Pacific Islander Festival representing Tokelau shows how skirts are fashioned using natural fibers.
Friendly guy at Pacific Islander Festival representing Tokelau shows how skirts are fashioned using natural fibers.

Today I went to San Diego’s annual Pacific Islander Festival. Wow!

The awesome event was held at Ski Beach Park on Vacation Isle, at the center of Mission Bay–and it was much, much bigger than I had expected. Thousands sitting in lawn chairs or walking among dozens of colorful tents enjoyed music, dance, food, fascinating crafts and a huge variety of cool sights.

Here’s some of what I saw. I’ll let the photo captions tell the story…

Miss Pacific Islander of San Diego greeted me with a warm smile!
Miss Pacific Islander of San Diego greeted me with a warm smile!
The popular annual festival attracts thousands, who enjoy lots of music and dance on a big main stage.
The popular annual festival attracts thousands, who enjoy lots of music and dance on a big main stage.
The theme for 2015 was Heroes of the Pacific, honoring military veterans from Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.
The theme for 2015 was Heroes of the Pacific, honoring military veterans from Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.
Youthful dancers on stage were a favorite of the crowd.
Youthful dancers on stage were a favorite of the crowd.
Many tents contained interesting artistic and cultural exhibits from different Pacific islands. Here we see Guam.
Many tents contained interesting artistic and cultural exhibits from different Pacific islands. Here we see Guam.
Native arts and crafts fascinated visitors to the festival.
Native arts and crafts fascinated visitors to the festival.
Lots of super nice people were enjoying the day at Ski Beach Park in Mission Bay, and many wore colorful costumes!
Lots of super nice people were enjoying the day at Ski Beach Park in Mission Bay, and many wore colorful costumes!
Glass floats are incredibly beautiful, like solid bubbles of light.
Glass floats are incredibly beautiful, like solid bubbles of light.
Tivaevae Polynesian quilting from the Cook Islands, finely made fans, and other handcrafted works on display.
Tivaevae Polynesian quilting from the Cook Islands, finely made fans, and other handcrafted works on display.
Those are two very cool ukuleles!
Those are two very cool ukuleles!
Chamorro outrigger canoe (proa) Sakman could be boarded by curious festival visitors at Ski Beach.
Chamorro outrigger canoe (proa) Sakman could be boarded by curious festival visitors at Ski Beach.
An exotic boat in genuine blue Pacific Ocean water on a glorious San Diego day.
An exotic boat in genuine blue Pacific Ocean water on a glorious San Diego day.
This juggler simply had to be photographed.
This lively juggler simply had to be photographed.
Drummers create rhythmic beats for event performers rehearsing behind the stage under some shady trees.
Drummers create rhythmic beats for event performers rehearsing behind the stage under some shady trees.
The Heiva San Diego tent contained colorful Tahitian sights.
The Heiva San Diego tent contained colorful Tahitian sights.
Typical foods one might find on a South Pacific Ocean island.
Typical foods one might find on a South Pacific Ocean island.
A sea turtle is swimming above the grass!
A sea turtle is swimming above the grass!
Artist representing Samoa creates Siapo, also known as tapa, using ink made from native seeds and tree bark.
Artist representing Samoa creates Siapo, also known as tapa, using ink made from native seeds and tree bark.
A funny octopus and dancing knife on display at the Samoa tent.
A funny octopus and dancing knife on display at the Samoa tent.
Books include Myths and Legends of Samoa.
Books include Myths and Legends of Samoa.
A beautiful wooden bowl was among many cultural artifacts from American Samoa.
A beautiful wooden bowl was among many cultural artifacts from American Samoa.
Palau's tent had many interesting photos and unique objects for everyone to enjoy.
Palau’s tent had many interesting photos and unique objects for everyone to enjoy.
Lots of life and energy at the Pacific Islander Festival!
Lots of life and energy at the Pacific Islander Festival!

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Fun pics of San Diego Iris Society’s rhizome sale!

These cool ladies knew all about irises and had lots of information on display during the rhizome sale in Balboa Park.
These cool ladies know all about irises.  They had lots of information on display during the rhizome sale in Balboa Park.

As you can see, I saw a lot of fun stuff today in Balboa Park. Included in the mix was the annual rhizome sale put on by the San Diego Iris Society. The folks I met were very friendly and eager to impart information about their fascinating, uniquely fulfilling hobby. After about ten minutes, I’d learned so much about irises my head almost popped!

The Iris Society has many members from around San Diego County, and features loads of fun events throughout the year. If you enjoy gardening, and irises in particular, check out their website! In May they’ll have their big flower exhibition in Balboa Park’s Casa del Prado, where spectacular blooms and arrangements will be on display for the general public. I recall walking through the free event in past years, and it’s spectacular!

Stick these guys in the ground and watch them grow! Irises are often called the poor man's orchid. They thrive in San Diego's climate.
Stick these guys in the ground and watch them grow! Irises are often called the poor man’s orchid. They thrive in San Diego’s climate.
There are many existing hybrids, with many new types being introduced each year. The San Diego Iris Society is an affiliate of the American Iris Society.
There are many existing hybrids, with many new types being introduced each year. The San Diego Iris Society is an affiliate of the American Iris Society.
This is a four year clump. One can separate root clumps to create multiple individual plants!
This is a four year clump. One can separate root clumps to create multiple individual plants!
Visitors to Balboa Park were checking out the annual iris sale and dreaming of beautiful garden flowers!
Visitors to Balboa Park were checking out the annual iris sale and dreaming of beautiful garden flowers!

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Photos of Old Town’s folklorico dance competition!

Ladies in Mexican folk costume gather in front of Old Town's Robinson-Rose House.
Ladies in Mexican folk costume gather in front of Old Town’s Robinson-Rose House.

I didn’t catch the names of the dance groups competing today. But I did get some fun photos! The sixth annual Fiesta de Reyes Folklórico Competition in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park was full of energy and color. In past years, the State Park has also been crowded with vendors during the Cinco de Mayo weekend. But not this year. All the commercial vendors were outside the park, along San Diego Avenue, and I believe this was a great idea. The center of historic Old Town is a representation of what life was like in San Diego in the 1800s. Its emphasis today on the authentic baile folklórico competition, which attracted talented troupes from throughout California, and a whole lot of spectators, seemed just right!

How good was the dancing? The participants were motivated to go full tilt with a first place prize of one thousand dollars! The dancers were evaluated by several renowned Mexican judges. It was fantastic!

Performers in the Cinco de Mayo weekend Folklorico Competition walk toward the Fiesta de Reyes stage area.
Performers in the Cinco de Mayo weekend Folklorico Competition walk toward the Fiesta de Reyes stage area.
A competing dance troupe wearing colorful costumes waits at the edge of Old Town's historic plaza.
A dance troupe wearing colorful costumes waits at the edge of Old Town’s grassy central plaza.
Traditional Mexican folklorico dancers have checked in for the big San Diego event!
Traditional Mexican folklorico dancers have checked in for the cool San Diego event!
A huge crowd watches as the super energetic dance contest is already underway.
A huge crowd watches as the super energetic dance contest is already underway.
With flowers in their hair, bright dresses and broad smiles, these dancers bring cheers and whoops from the crowd.
With flowers in their hair, bright dresses and broad smiles, these dancers bring cheers and whoops from the crowd.
Dances and costumes from different parts of Mexico can be quite unique.
Dances and costumes from different parts of Mexico can be quite unique.
These guys are full of stomp and vigor and so is the crowd!
These stomping guys are full of vigor and so is the crowd!
Long colored ribbons stream from very odd costumes. The headpieces appear to be religious icons or altars.
Long colored ribbons stream from very odd costumes. The headpieces appear to be religious icons or altars.
Sacred images of Christ crown these dancers' heads. I believe I heard this peculiar tradition originated in Jalisco, but I might be wrong.
Sacred images of Christ crown these dancers’ heads. I believe I heard this peculiar tradition originated in Jalisco, but I might be wrong.
Frilly, flouncy dresses were seen throughout Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Frilly, flouncy dresses were seen throughout Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Traditional Mexican folk dancers in long flowing skirts dazzle the big crowd.
Traditional Mexican folk dancers in long flowing skirts dazzle the cheering crowd.
Another sensational performance!
Another sensational performance!
These were the first place winners!
These were the first place winners!

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International Day of Happiness in San Diego!

Hugging rather than shaking hands.
Hugging rather than shaking hands.

Today is the International Day of Happiness! Happy thoughts and deeds were underway in downtown San Diego this morning, just outside Horton Plaza. I swung on by to check things out!

International Day of Happiness in San Diego at Horton Plaza.
International Day of Happiness in San Diego at Horton Plaza.
Early morning vows of how people will make the world a more happy place.
Early morning vows of how people will make the world a more happy place.
Smiling at my kids more.
Smiling at my kids more.
Smiling and saying hi to everyone I pass by today.
Smiling and saying hi to everyone I pass by today.
Sharing my lunch with someone less fortunate.
Sharing my lunch with someone less fortunate.
Being a good father and role model.
Being a good father and role model.
Help make the world a happier place!
Help make the world a happier place!

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Tiny, watchful eyes on a very lonely bridge.

Small, vacant eyes stare up from a seldom used bridge in downtown San Diego.
Small, vacant eyes stare up from a seldom used bridge in downtown San Diego.

A pedestrian bridge in downtown San Diego spans Interstate 5. It’s almost never used. From the extreme end of a large, mostly vacant parking lot below the Veteran’s Museum, it arches high over the wide, busy freeway and descends to a securely gated parking lot next to San Diego City College’s sports fields.  It leads mostly nowhere.

I’ve lived about a mile away for over a decade, but I’ve never set foot on the bridge–until this afternoon. Walking up Park Boulevard, I’ve often gazed at the distant bridge and wondered if it was open. Never once have I seen a soul on it.

I suppose people must visit this place at times, because the bridge is absolutely covered with both new and old graffiti. It’s a singularly lonely place, enclosed in fencing, suspended above unseen drivers flashing by in anonymous cars below.

Here are some random photographs.  Who applied these small artistic faces?  The eyes never blink.

This pedestrian bridge spans Interstate 5, connecting two unrelated parking lots.
This pedestrian bridge spans Interstate 5, connecting two unrelated parking lots.
Two strange eyes seem to sprout from the concrete. Going nowhere fast.
Two strange eyes seem to sprout from the concrete. Going nowhere fast.
Stenciled images of bearded face. Stay fresh.
Stenciled images of bearded face. Stay fresh.
Two contented smiles inside lettering of boldly spray painted graffiti underfoot.
Two contented smiles inside lettering of boldly spray painted graffiti underfoot.
Shy face and downcast eyes. Welcome home.
Shy face and downcast eyes. Welcome home.
Small grinning face in some faded blue words.
Small grinning face in some faded blue words.
These stenciled faces seem to be slowly disappearing as time passes.
These stenciled faces seem to be slowly disappearing as time passes.
A whole crowd of colorful eyes watch in every direction.
A whole crowd of colorful eyes watch in every direction.
Spray painted cartoon looks happy and excited as can be.
Spray painted cartoon looks happy and excited as can be.
Another smiling face in graffiti on the lonely bridge.
Another smiling face in graffiti on the lonely bridge.
A fierce cartoon cat or devilish creature of some kind.
A fierce cartoon cat or devilish creature of some kind.
Above a Facebreaker decal is an old Gasface sticker.
Above a Facebreaker decal is an old Gasface sticker.
Looking down at the freeway where it begins its S-curve through downtown.
Looking down at the freeway where it begins its S-curve through downtown.
Enigmatic face is unable to speak to the few who pass by.
Enigmatic face is unable to speak to the few who pass by.
Another simple, childish smile. Even where it's bleak, there is always hope.
Another simple, childish smile. Even where it’s bleak, there is always hope.

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