PHOTO GALLERY: A night of celebration for Day of the Dead

A large crowd of more than 700 people gathered for the 2022 Día de los Muertos celebration at the Estes Park Event Center. (Dawn Wilson/Estes Park Trail-Gazette)

A large ofrenda memorializes a departed loved one with photos, candles, food and marigolds, which represent the fragility of life. (Dawn Wilson/Estes Park Trail-Gazette)

Estes Park High School students created Día de los Muertos calaveras to honor the celebration. (Dawn Wilson/Estes Park Trail-Gazette)

A large ofrenda memorializes a departed loved one with photos, candles, food and marigolds, which represent the fragility of life. (Dawn Wilson/Estes Park Trail-Gazette)

A young girl spins on the dance floor to the mariachi music at the Estes Park Day of the Dead celebration. (Dawn Wilson/Estes Park Trail-Gazette)

Three of the seven members of the Sol de mi Terra Mariachi band play for the large crowd at the Día de los Muertos event in Estes Park. (Dawn Wilson/Estes Park Trail-Gazette)

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The Día de los Muertos (or “Day of the Dead) celebration held on Wednesday, October 26 at the Estes Park Event Center, was an extravaganza for the senses. With an abundance of food aromas filling the nostrils, a traditional Mexican mariachi band filling the building with music and brightly colored decorations in every shade of the rainbow for the eyes, this celebration marked a day of remembrance.

Day of the Dead commemorates and celebrates the lives of loved ones who have passed from this world to the next. This Mexican holiday that is celebrated throughout the Latino community is a time for families to welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drink and celebration.

“This is an important festival for the Latino community,” said José Almeida, event organizer and visionary of the Estes Park event. “The most important thing, however, is to create this event for the whole community. It is a great way to get to know each other.”

The event brought a large crowd with Almeida estimating at least 700 people in attendance.

“There is an amazing number of people here,” said Almeida. “I may have started this but the community organizes it.”

This was the seventh year for this event in Estes Park, which incorporates a variety of traditional and local facets. Local residents and guests enjoyed the music of one of Colorado’s best mariachi bands, Sol de mi Tierra Mariachi, which have played at the Denver Philharmonic. Estes Park High School students painted masks like calaveras, which are whimsical caricatures or drawings of skulls. A large Wall of Remembrance posters honored those who have passed.

Almeida asked people to contribute to the wall, and contribute they did with posters honoring those near and far. Stories included that of Tiffany Glenn, a ballet instructor from San Jose who died at the young age of 33. Another poster was created to honor Ronald Heckerson, a great grandfather a community member dearly missed. And another paid homage to Fridolin Becker, a great-great-great grandfather born in Switzerland in 1815.

“We need to be more inclusive and multinational,” said Almeida. “This wall is a personal love for me and the community all moves one to do this.”

There was a wide mix of community members in attendance with people of all ages enjoying the abundant food, sweet treats and company of community members. Many, including Almeida and his wife, took to the dance floor to kick up their heels and spin to the music created by the mariachi band.

A large Day of the Dead ofrenda filled the north side of the building. Ofrendas are altars created to honor a departed loved one filled with candles, food, folk-art skeleton art, sugar skulls, special items representative of the departed spirit, marigolds and pictures. The food and drink in the ofrenda are for the weary spirits after their long journey. The marigolds and other flowers used in the ofrendas represent the fragility of life.

For any of us who have lost a loved one – whether that was someone gone too soon or departing after a long life – we know just how powerful “the fragility of life” phrase can be.

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About Pep Dekekr

Pep loves Estes Park, he lives here with his family and hopes to bring people to Estes Park and Estes Park to the people. Along with his wife Paige, they own EstesPark.com.

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