DIA DE LOS MUERTOS: HOW MODESTO DOES DAY OF THE DEAD
By Crystal Nay
As the heat of summer wanes and the autumn holidays make their appearance, we are quickly reminded of all the fun festivities headed our way. They usually kick off with the selection of a costume, and the celebrated Dia de Los Muertos is no exception.
Now in its third year, the launch of this festival started with a simple desire to have a Dia de Los Muertos cultural festival available to everyone. “For many years, I went to other areas to attend cultural festivals. They were awesome, but they also charged a fee to attend,” says Rebecca Harrington, committee chair of the Dia de Los Muertos committee. “A festival that celebrates your cultural traditions shouldn’t cost to attend.”
With attendance fees limiting those who could attend a cultural festival, Harrington saw an opportunity to change that aspect and took a leap of faith that there would be others who felt the same as she did. Her first stop was to talk to the Modesto city manager, where she found enthusiastic support. Harrington’s leap of faith was a leap in the right direction— the City of Modesto became the first sponsor-partner in making Dia de Los Muertos a reality for the community.
This success paved way for a hectic initial launch. “I planned everything in six weeks,” says Harrington. Harrington admits that there were some things that worked, and some that did not. The planning began much earlier for the following year, and the festival brought in more people. “Year two was better, more organized,” Harrington admits. “So, I knew we were on to something.”
In its second year, the event reached 194,000+ people on Facebook, 210,000+ people now. In January 2018, Harrington began receiving emails from vendors requesting to reserve their spots in the next festival because it had been the most successful event of the year for their businesses. Harrington plans to continue to grow the festival into a premier event of the year for the community. While there are many events throughout the year, there are fewer cultural events like Dia de Los Muertos. This year, there will be a free screening of Disney’s Coco at 1:00 p.m. at the State Theatre, on a first come, first served basis. There will be more music and more vendors than previous years, and more information available about community nonprofits. Overall, it’s just more fun— for kids, adults, families, and everyone in between. For those ages 21+, there will be special activities after the festival ends, including a contest for best catrin and catrina.
Dia de Los Muertos Festival in October. 20, 2018, 11 A.M. – 8 P.M. 10TH ST. Plaza, Downtown Modesto.