OCEANSIDE — The Dia de los Muertos celebration held Nov. 1 is hailed as one of the biggest Day of the Dead celebrations in the United States. Thousands flock to the annual event to remember those who have died and celebrate their lives.
“It’s one of the reasons why we came out here,” Jessica Partenheimer of Daytona Beach, Fla., said. “It gives you time to reflect on your loved ones, and see how other people reflect.”
The Dia de los Muertos celebration mixes remembrance with merriment. Ballet folklorico groups performed on three stages, a mock funeral procession made its way through the event, and children decorated festive sugar skulls and made crepe paper flowers in a children’s craft area.
This year the celebration, which has outgrown the Civic Center plaza where it was formerly held, moved to the grounds of Mission San Luis Rey. The new location gave the event room to add a car show and spread out performance stages, vendors and memorial alters.
The event is well-supported by the community. Cathy Nykiel, event coordinator of MainStreet Oceanside, estimated the event received $150,000 in goods and services from media sponsors and community in-kind donations, and was supported with the help of more than 300 volunteers.
To celebrate the Day of the Dead, dozens of “ofrendas,” or memorial altars, were set up inside the mission courtyard by Oaxacan, Michoacan and local families to remember their loved ones.
Traditional offerings like marigolds, bread, fruit and favorite food and drink of the departed decorated altars. There were also photos and favorite books and CDs of loved ones as part of alter displays.
A chalk cemetery of marked 1-foot squares allowed event-goers to decorate squares with chalk, candles and flowers in remembrance of their loved ones. Vorie Edelann, of Carlsbad, drew a big heart in a square next to Bella Edelmann, 6, who was writing a message of remembrance for her grandmother and little brother.
“We love it,” Vorie Edelann said. “We came last year and have been looking forward to it all year.”
There were also families placing marigolds on grave markers of loved ones at the mission cemetery. “I wish my mom could be here,” Sam Rhodes of Vista said. “That’s her sitting right here.” He pointed to his mom’s plot, which was surrounded with bright orange blossoms. “That’s why I’m here,” he said.
See video from the event at www.coastnewsgroup.com.