Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!

More than 67,000 rattlesnakes slither in the basement of the San Diego Natural History Museum. (Or, I’m sure they would slither, if they were alive.)

I’m always curious: What other hidden spectacles exist in Balboa Park, the city’s cultural heart? We’re very excited to announce a way to find out.

We’ll meet you in the park at the San Diego Natural History Museum, after hours on Wednesday, Nov. 28. It’ll be our fourth “Meeting of the Minds,” our lively event designed to connect you with stimulating happenings and stories you might have missed about the cultural side of San Diego.

If you joined us on the rooftop of Horton Plaza’s parking garage for our last “Meeting of the Minds” in August, you know we had a great time learning about mysterious masterpieces and other intriguing artsy things.

This time we’re focusing on Balboa Park, with six speakers illuminating sides of Balboa Park you might not otherwise have a chance to see. They’ll employ a rapid-fire presentation style called pecha-kucha — each will zip through 20 slides, displayed for 20 seconds each.

That means you’ll have plenty of time before and afterward to meet and compare notes with neighbors you’ve never met from all over the county. And you can do so over a drink, thanks to our friends at St. Petersburg Vodka and Karl Strauss Brewing. (The $10 suggested donation for admission includes a drink ticket; admission is free for VOSD members.)

And now, introducing our six speakers:

Marlene Williams’ house is in the park; she lives on the Girl Scouts camp with her husband, who’s the chapter’s property director. She often explores the park’s vast trail system with her dogs, Molson and Baron. She’ll be our guide to the trails and will explain the efforts afoot to maintain and promote them. (We went along for a walk with Williams and her dogs a few days ago.)

Marcos Espinosa is 20 and lives in Tijuana. Every Saturday, he hops in the car and crosses the border to attend rehearsal for the Sinfonia orchestra at the San Diego Youth Symphony, which meets in a classroom at the Casa del Prado in the park. He’ll narrate his musical mission and what he sees when he crosses the border to come to the park.

“Ranger Kim” Duclo is a veritable park celebrity who knows something about nearly every corner of Balboa Park. He’ll take some of the features and landmarks you never have looked at closely and show us where echoes of them show up in locations outside park bounds.

• Between 1952 and 1974, the city of San Diego dumped nearly 2 million tons of trash in the middle of the park, in the Arizona Landfill. Jose Ysea from the city’s Environmental Services Department will tell us how a crew of workers monitors the site’s methane emissions and watch as the ground above settles oddly as garbage decomposes underneath. (You can see Ysea in our landfill episode of San Diego Explained.)

Maren Dougherty spent 26 nights in the park last year, exploring nooks and crannies and meeting scores of behind-the-scenes characters. She’ll introduce us to some you might have seen, and others you’d never know were there.

• Retired engineer Ruth Hayward looked for very particular details when she researched park founders — what did they look like, and what characteristics would be possible to set in bronze? Hayward sculpted the statues that are in Founders Plaza on the western side of the park, and she’ll spill the details she found most compelling. (Read our Q-and-A with Hayward about her sculpture and her experience working as a rare female engineer in the 1960s.)

And there’s swag! If you come to Meeting of the Minds, you can snag a special commemorative Balboa Park edition of our monthly magazine for a discounted $5. Lots of people have been asking me if we’re going to be putting all of the stories we unraveled from the park’s history this year into one place. Here it is.

I can’t wait. So, will you join us? See you at 7 p.m. in the atrium at the San Diego Natural History Museum on Wednesday, Nov. 28. You can reserve your place here.

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

And follow Behind the Scene on Facebook.

Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.