Even though other events have been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, downtown Marion will have a Dia de Muertos festival for 2020 but it will be done differently.
Starting in 2017, downtown Marion has hosted the annual Dia de Muertos complete with mariachi music, traditional Mexican foods and drinks and games for children. This special event, a tradition in Mexico, helps people honor the memories of their loved ones who have passed away. For three years, the event has been at the City Stage at Marion’s North Block. Admission to the festival is free and open to everyone.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous festivals have been cancelled or postponed, including the WNC Bigfoot Festival and Mountain Glory here in Marion.
But the 2020 Dia de Muertos will still take place but it has been reimagined, according to coordinator Silvia Martin del Campo.
“I believe in the saying: ‘Where there is a will, there is a way,’” she said to The McDowell News. “We are having the festival this year.”
Every year, Martin del Campo adds something new to the festival. This year, she had planned to host a free workshop at MACA over the summer and until October. The workshop involved participants building three very large alebrijes, which are Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical or mythical creatures. One of these workshops was going to be for adults, another for teenagers, and the last group was going to be for kids.
“However COVID-19 changed the plans and I was able to reorganize the whole festival,” she said.
So, she asked Susan Pyatt-Baker and Anna Branam of MACA if they could still have the festival but in a completely different way.
This year, the organizers and sponsors are reimagining the Día de Muertos Festival as a three-week long cultural event and “an opportunity to celebrate the lives of those we love and miss while sharing in the traditions of our diverse community.” It will last from Oct. 17 to Nov. 7.
This year’s main attraction will be a collection from Mexican photographer, Edgardo Mendez.
“He has a true passion for photography and has won several contests, and I really like his work,” said Martin del Campo. “He has a whole collection of Dia de Muertos celebrations in Mexico in his collection. So I talked to him over the quarantine and talked about the idea of sharing some of his pictures. He was thrilled and accepted and donated 20 of his pictures to this year's celebration.”
These pictures will be shown at five locations in Marion: MACA, Artesana ice cream, Flavors on Main, Los Tres Hombres (located on West Court Street) and Burrito Bros.
Then, Martin del Campo thought about having a contest of small memorial displays, which is the main purpose of the festival.
“There can’t be a Dia de Muertos without the memorial displays, or ofrendas,” she said.
Like the photographs by Mendez, all of them will be spread out at the five locations.
The second contest is to make your own alebrije. These are imaginary creatures that have different body parts of different animals, and are very colorful with unique skin patterns.
“I thought that this could be a family project and give participants six weeks to work on it,” said Martin del Campo. “Because safety is the priority, I thought that instead of having a large mass of people gather on Main Street just one day, we could have the festival hosted at different locations and extend it for three weeks. At the different places where the festival will be hosted, they are already following the COVID-19 guidelines to keep everyone safe.”
Since the festival will be held inside the five locations and not closing down any streets, the city of Marion didn’t have to give Martin del Campo permission for the festival.
“We also wanted to give the opportunity to everyone to participate actively in this event,” she said to The McDowell News.
Dia de Muertos 2020 will have a scavenger hunt too. People can get a paper at the participating locations and find the objects in the pictures that will be on display. When they find all items, they need to bring their paper to Golden Services on South Main Street from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, starting on Oct. 19 and lasting until Nov. 9, and they will get a treat bag.
Participants in these contests must register and it's free, Awards will be given to the first-, second- and third-place winners with $100, $50 and $25 prices respectively.
“I do want to give a special shout out to this year's sponsors that have supported the festival and always do their best to make this event happen,” said Martin del Campo. “I couldn't do it without them.”
These sponsors are MACA, Beam Funeral Home, Burrito Bros., Flavors on Main, 3 Hombres, Artesana, Golden Services and Centro Unido Latino-Americano.
Organizers have made a new Web site and a video to promote this year's festival and better explain how it will work. You can see it here: http://www.mcdowellarts.org/diademuertos.html
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