Exploring Balboa Park June 2015

By Johnny McDonald


The traditional summer Twilight in the Park concerts will have a Centennial twist this year.

“We’ll have special Centennial events planned around some of the concerts,” said Mike Waggener, who established the first Twilight shows 35 years ago. “They’ll begin an hour before the 6:30 p.m. concert each night.

Johnny McDonald

Johnny McDonald

“We want people to come earlier to be entertained by roving barbershop quartets, dancers and even antique cars,” he said. “People can get into the atmosphere of 1915, even be taught dance steps of that period.”

As for the concerts, he’s noticed a change in audiences over the past years.

“More young families with children are filling the 2,500 seats,” he said. “Before, they were mostly senior citizens.

“It’s one of the few places where the kids can hop around in the back or on the sides during these concerts,” he continued. “We have room up front so people can dance.”

Appropriately, the San Diego Marine Corps Concert band will play on opening night, June 16. The shows are scheduled Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights through Aug. 27.

Historically, the Marines participated in the 1915 Fair and were headquartered in the Park’s buildings until MCRD opened in 1924.

Bayou Brothers and Hillcrest Wind Ensemble will perform the next two nights.

Waggener said the mid-week days were selected so as not to interfere with other events going on at the Park and these had “the least chance,” of doing so. He also said the volunteers are responsible for keeping the series alive for so long.

“We don’t depend on grants and things like that,” he said.

A few of the other musical performers will be Real Jazz Big Band, Grupo Relax TJ, Dixie Express, Coronado Big Band and The Legends.

Elsewhere in the Park — During spring break in March, San Diego State students Derek Abbey. Jade Dadiz, Jacob Jiron and Olivia Chavez, joined the BentProp Project team in Palau to search for WWII remains and artifacts. Their findings will be exhibited at the Veterans Museum on June 24 at 6:30 p.m. The BentProp Project, once featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” is a nonprofit group that conducts year-round research in support of the annual spring missions to Palau.

In recent weeks, the Museum has received numerous WWII medals, books, uniforms, certificates, ship model, photographs and other artifacts from 12 donors … The San Diego Zoo has more than 700,000 plants in its accredited botanical collection including over 900 different types of orchids. “There’s a lot of opportunity for guests to learn and gain knowledge they can put to use in their own backyard gardens,” said Dan Simpson, horticulture manager. “At various spots on Zoo grounds, guests can visit interesting booths and learn about things like what makes up good soil and compost at the ‘can you dig it’ booth” … San Diego Junior Theatre’s “Charlotte’s Web.” E. B. White’s story of a diverse group of farm animals on a dangerous and exciting adventure, June 26 – July 12 … San Diego Natural History Museum, “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed,” June 12 – Jan. 3. The nation’s largest exhibit of its kind reveals the rise and decline of the Mayan civilization through never-before-seen artifacts, hands-on activities, multimedia components and recreated environments … Spanish Village Art Center’s Painting Extravaganza, a creation of a mural depicting Balboa Park in 1915 by 12 artists painting in their styles on panels that are fitted together, June 20 – 21 … The Old Globe Summer Season will feature Shakespeare onstage and in film, including “Twelfth Night” and “The Comedy of Errors” at the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre; “Kiss Me, Kate” in the Old Globe Theatre; and Ken Ludwig’s “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” in the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, June 21 – Sept. 20.

After an award-winning, 38-year sports-writing career with the San Diego Union and authoring three books, Johnny McDonald now considers writing a hobby. You can reach him at

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