Now in its fifth year, Breckenridge’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration has become a local tradition. Families flock to the Arts District each year to take part in hands-on workshops, face painting, art installations, traditional dances, and community altars in keeping with the Latin American holiday, which commemorates lost loved ones in a cheerful, festive manner.
This year, however, the event becomes even more authentic and locally rooted—featuring three nights of Mexican food prepared by local restaurateurs; a dance class by the Dillon-based group, Baile Folklórico Bugambilias; a costumed community run; and a date change to November 1-3 in keeping with the actual dates Día de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico.
“The festival is much more community-oriented now,” said Becca Spiro, Breckenridge Creative Arts’ Director of Learning and Engagement, who was inspired by a presentation by Carbondale Arts at the Colorado Creative Industries Summit. “They talked about how Carbondale’s Day of the Dead celebration is really grassroots—how they gave the reigns to community members. It just felt respectful,” Spiro said.
While past years of the Breckenridge festival have relied in large part on Metropolitan State University Denver’s excellent programming, this year’s festival will be much more locally based.
There will be authentic Mexican food, free of charge, all three nights—including appetizers by Frisco’s Hacienda Real Thursday night before the screening of the Pixar-Disney movie, “Coco,” a buffet at Gallery@OMH Friday evening by Silverthorne’s Fritangas, and appetizers from Dillon’s White Boots restaurant Saturday.
On Friday afternoon and Saturday, guests are invited to provide hands-on help to visiting artist Justin Favela by creating paper flowers for his Día de los Muertos altar exhibition at Gallery@OMH. Favela will also lead two talks— one examining how “Coco” represents Mexican culture following the film’s screening, and another about his own work Friday night.
Festivalgoers are also invited to South Branch Library to tour “Museum of Memories,” an exhibit featuring large-scale, memory-inspired canvases created by Summit County children grades K-12 and curated by local high school students, who will be on hand along with students from Dillon Valley Elementary School to give bilingual tours of the work. An interactive component will allow guests to build their own perspectives into the exhibit.
Popular favorites including face painting and the photo booth return Friday afternoon and Saturday, with make-and-take crafts—including papier-mâché masks, bedazzled skulls and bones, Catrina dolls with Adrián Marban, and skeleton engravings with artist-in-residence Damien Noll—on Saturday. Another local tie-in is a performance by Dillon Valley Assistant Principal Scott Van Loo’s salsa band, Grupo Mezcla, which will play Friday evening at Gallery@OMH.
The centerpiece of this year’s event is a costumed community run called “La Corrida de los Muertos.” Participants of all ages are invited to the Arts District at 9 a.m. Saturday to work on their flowery skeleton costumes, which they will wear for the race. Then at 10 a.m. Frisco’s Alpine Dance Academy kicks off the run by breaking into dance, flash-mob-style, before the “esqueletos” take off running. In the spirit of remembering our deceased ancestors, the race course takes runners past the historic Valley Brook Cemetery.
The idea for La Corrida evolved from suggestions by Isabel Rodriguez, who runs a folkloric dance program in Dillon, and Kendra Carpenter, principal of Dillon Valley Elementary, to host a parade or procession in which community members could take part. “Day of the Dead is not a spectator holiday,” said Rodriguez. “It’s all about remembering those people in your life who have passed away.” Carpenter suggested making the event into a run modeled after the school’s “El Grito del Valle.”
In addition, Rodriguez will teach a folkloric dance workshop at Breckenridge Theater Saturday afternoon, before dancers treat guests to a colorful Saturday night performance for the event’s finale. Many of the events at Día de los Muertos are made possible with support from The Summit Foundation.
“We welcome both locals and visitors to our Día de los Muertos celebration with open arms,” said Robb Woulfe, CEO of Breckenridge Creative Arts. “By showcasing more of our homegrown talent and inviting local ownership, we aim to make the festival more intimately relevant to all members of our diverse community.”
Día de los Muertos // breckcreate.org/ddlm
La Corrida de los Muertos // breckcreate.org/special-events/la-corrida-de-los-muertos
Photos by Joe Kusumoto and Kirstie Shanley