Day of the Dead

Colorful masks and costumes are a staple of Day of the Dead celebrations in Mesa and Chandler.

Both Chandler and Mesa are hosting major celebrations this week in honor of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead and All Souls’ Day.

A time historically marked by honoring relatives and friends no longer with us. The three-day celebration grew from a month-long Aztec festival and moved from August to October to coincide with the Christian Allhallowtide celebrations.

Traditions include visiting graves of family members to tidy them and leave small altars called ofrendas.

 Offerings of marigolds, personal possessions of the departed, poems, foods, toy (for children) or alcohol (for adults) left at altars help draw spirits of the dead to hear the prayers and words of the living. Other traditions include calaveras makeup — sugar-skull-like face painting — or masks, stilt walkers, sugar or chocolate skulls, and La Prócesion — a parade to various burial sites.

Mesa Arts Center is continuing its free  community celebration of Latin American Art, food and culture related to the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead noon-5 p.m. today, Oct. 27.

The festival features food and a colorful market of 50 craft, jewelry and other various Day of the dead vendors. 

Activities include a giant altar display created by lead artist Kyllan Maney and volunteers. Family-friendly activities such as face-painting, flower-making, artist demonstrations, and musical and cultural performances will be among the festivites.

Also featured is live painting by muralists Such and Champ, La Morena and Lalo Cota; a Mesa Public Schools mariachi showcase; and storytime and book signings with author Roni Capin Rivera-Ashfordor. 

A special Day of the Dead concert and costume party featuring Andrew Johns will run 8-11 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1, at The Vistas Pavilion at Las Sendas in Mesa.

Johns is known for his one-man four-part harmonies Queen, the Eagles, Steely Dan and Steve Wonder. Through technology he also impersonates the vocals of music divas like Pink, Adele, Norah and more.

Tickets are $45 and available by calling 480-396-4000, ext 227.

In Chandler, the city’s diversity office is partnering with Cultura Communications to host a free Day of the Dead event from 5-10 p.m., Friday at the Downtown Stage, 178 E. Commonwealth Ave.

 “Chandler has such a large Hispanic population and the City’s Diversity Office has always wanted to hold a free community celebration during Hispanic Heritage Month,” said Niki Tapia, Chandler Diversity Office supervisor. “

The event features a huge community altar, historical exhibits featuring Chandler’s first families, live cultural entertainment, food trucks, a community mural for attendees to paint, unique arts and craft vendors, plus an appearance by PBS Kids’ Maya and Miguel.

 There’s also planned altars paying tribute the fallen Chandler Police and Fire departments officers and firefighters. The evening closes with a community procession celebrating loved ones.

A schedule of events is available online at chandleraz.gov/diadelosmuertos. New this year is a partnership with Party Dogs Productions. The Party Dogs will have more than 25 tasting stations of hand-crafted margaritas, mojitos, craft beers, wines and spirits. Attendees may purchase a ticket for the tasting experience and will receive an embossed tasting glass to use throughout the festival. There also will be a cash bar. 

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli-AZ, a Chandler youth dance troupe. Early bird tasting tickets are $28 and available for advanced purchase at thepartydogs.com/dia-de-los-muertos. Tasting tickets also may be purchased at the event for $30.

“More than 300 hundred staff, volunteers, artists, merchants, vendors and community support groups contributed to the overall production of the event,” said Carmela Ramirez, event producer with Cultura Communications. 

Also in downtown Chandler, Ghett’ Yo’ Taco announces the inaugural Dia de los Muertos event benefiting Los Diablos ASU Alumni Chapter Oct. 31-Nov.3.

This four day event will begin Thursday night with a bar crawl through downtown Chandler and will culminate with a family fun day on Sunday.

The Halloween bar crawl will take place from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. and will include stops at Chandler establishments The Local, Perch, Sleepy Whale and Quart Haus. 

The night will continue at Ghett’ Yo’ Taco with a costume contest for cash prizes and a candle lighting vigil. Guests are encouraged to bring candles and photos of their departed loved ones. Each bar will have drink specials and live music. 

There are also concerts and bar specials Nov. 1 and 2. For a full schedule and tickets:  GhettYoTaco.com.