TOPEKA – Topeka’s first citywide Día de los Muertos Festival is scheduled from October 27 through November 2. Día de los Muertos is historically celebrated on the days of Nov 1st and 2nd. The celebration centers on the remembrance of ancestors and loved ones that have passed away. The holiday is Mexican in origin and is a combination of both indigenous and Spanish traditions. Colorful and joyous in nature, Día de los Muertos is a time when family, friends and entire communities come together to celebrate with music, art, food and crafts. Staples of the holiday are ofrendas (altars) to the departed ones along with the calavera (skull) imagery.
A juried art show and exhibit of ofrendas (altars) dedicated to loved ones will be held at Justicia, Inc./Ballet Folklorico in the NOTO Arts District and opens on October 27. That same day a fun-filled Family Street Fair is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the NOTO Arts District. Continuation of the festival includes a concert reading of “Bones of Butterflies” by playwright Marcia Cebulska at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library at 3 p.m. on Sunday October 28. On November 1, at 7 p.m. at Washburn University, guest lecturer Denis Defibaugh from New York, will speak on his decade of travels to Oaxaca, Mexico to photograph their Día de los Muertos celebrations. His photographic exhibit will open on November 2 at 5:30 p.m. at the Brown vs. Board of Education Historic Site. The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center on November 2 will have sugar skull decorating workshops, a parade for children, dancers and more. The festival will culminate that same November 2 with poetry readings, Mexican chocolate drink, sweet breads and the music of strolling mariachis in the NOTO Arts District beginning at 6:00 p.m. The Society will also host for several days the Aztec Group Huitzilopochtli from Denver, Colorado.
“We are thrilled with all the support and help with planning this event,” says Christina Valdivia-Alcala, event co-chair. “As we come into the final stretch of planning and promotion, we are amazed at volunteers wanting to come on board for next year! Día de los Muertos is one of many celebrations that Topekans can be proud of and reflects our city’s commitment to diversity in art and culture. We truly see this as a wonderful beginning for our Society and we have many ideas for the future.”
Through numerous partnerships, sponsors and volunteers, the Society has been working for over a year to bring the festival to the capitol city. The Tonantzin Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and nurturing Latino arts and culture. They are partnered with the Topeka Community Foundation for their non-profit status. The Society members are all volunteer and from a cross section of the Topeka community.