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Gather at Olinger's Crown Hill Cemetery to celebrate the dead among the tombstones.EXPAND
Gather at Olinger's Crown Hill Cemetery to celebrate the dead among the tombstones.
Ken Hamblin III

Denver’s Fifteen Best Día de los Muertos Celebrations

In Colorado, the Mexican Día de los Muertos tradition goes back centuries, to times long before the state even existed. To celebrate right, appreciate — and don’t appropriate — the true spirit of the observance. The day isn’t meant to be sad or scary; it’s a celebration in every sense of the word — a time to feel close to your departed family and ancestors by building altars and leaving offerings of food and flowers for their spirits to enjoy. Here are ten ways you can get a taste of the real deal:

Jerry Vigil, “El Pachuco” and “Frida” detail from the FAC Permanent Collection, acrylic paint on papier-mâché over foam/wood and chicken wire/wood armature.
Jerry Vigil, “El Pachuco” and “Frida” detail from the FAC Permanent Collection, acrylic paint on papier-mâché over foam/wood and chicken wire/wood armature.
Jerry Vigil, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Día de los Muertos Celebration
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs
Wednesday, October 30, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday, November 1, 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 2, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

CSFAC gets into the Day of the Dead spirit with a three-day celebration of Mexico’s annual festival of communing with the ancestors. Former Museo de las Americas director Maruca Salazar will build a traditional Aztec altar throughout the day on October 30 in a nod to the holiday’s indigenous past; on November 1, the museum’s First Friday Art Party includes a sugar-skull demonstration and viewing of community ofrendas; and Saturday will be given over to demos, make-and-take workshops, and live mariachi music and Mexican folk dancing. Admission is free on Friday and Saturday; visit CSFAC’s website for a complete schedule.

Denver's oldest Día de los Muertos procession tips off at La Raza Park on Friday night.EXPAND
Denver's oldest Día de los Muertos procession tips off at La Raza Park on Friday night.
Servicios de la Raza

Denver’s Oldest Día de los Muertos Celebration
La Raza Park, West 38th Avenue and Navajo Street
Friday, November 1, 6 p.m.

Bring candles and pictures of loved ones who have passed to an authentic community procession with a modern twist, open to all and sponsored by a group of local nonprofits, North High School and Denver councilwoman Amanda Sandoval. In addition to celebrating the traditional Día de los Muertos, this year’s event will focus on children who died in border detention centers. The group leaves La Raza Park at 6 p.m. and ends up at North High School, 2960 Speer Boulevard, for dinner and commemorations at 7 p.m.

Make an offering to the dead at Su Teatro's Altares Vivos: Amor Eterno – Día de los Muertos Carnival First Friday event.
Make an offering to the dead at Su Teatro's Altares Vivos: Amor Eterno – Día de los Muertos Carnival First Friday event.
Su Teatro

Día de los Muertos First Friday Art Walk
Art District on Santa Fe, Santa Fe Drive between 13th and Second avenues
Friday, November 1, 6 to 10 p.m.

The Art District on Santa Fe represents for the Westside, with a district-wide First Friday celebration anchored by community stalwarts at the Chicano Humanities and Arts Center, Su Teatro and the Museo de las Americas, all of which are hosting special events. A candlelight procession will wend its way up the street from CHAC, 222 Santa Fe Drive, where beautiful ofrendas honor the dead, at 7 p.m. (assemble at 6:45 p.m.), while Su Teatro, 721 Santa Fe Drive, hosts Altares Vivos: Amor Eterno—Día de los Muertos Carnival, a party for all ages, with altars large and small; live dancing and music; traditional Día de los Muertos goodies, face painting and sugar-skull-decorating for the kids; and an authentic Campo Santo (Mexican cemetery) strewn with marigolds and candles to wander through after dark. Meanwhile, at the Museo, 861 Santa Fe Drive, channel your inner calaca at a Catrina Costume Contest (registration 4 to 6 p.m.; judging 6 to 6:45 p.m.). It’s also an opportunity to catch the Museo’s exhibition Altar’d Continuum: Resistance and Empowerment in Sacred Spaces, a modern view on old traditions, on view through February. Visit the ADSF website for details.

A collection of calacas at Pirate gallery.
A collection of calacas at Pirate gallery.
Courtesy of Pirate: Contemporary Art

Colfax Art Crawl: Día de los Muertos
40 West Arts District, West Colfax Avenue corridor, between Kendall Street and Wadsworth Boulevard
37th Día de Los Muertos Celebration and Muertos Mart
Pirate: Contemporary Art, 7130 West 16th Avenue, Lakewood
Friday, November 1, 6 to 10 p.m.

To the north, Lakewood’s 40 West Arts District is also throwing a district-wide Día de los Muertos shindig on First Friday, with ground zero at Pirate: Contemporary Art, the émigré from Navajo Street in Denver, which will celebrate its 37th annual Día de Los Muertos Celebration and Muertos Mart in new surroundings. Pirate hosts community altars, Aztec dancers and piñata parties for kids and adults, plus a Day of the Dead craft market, and serves as the starting point for a candlelight procession through the district at 7:30 p.m., while 40 West chips in with fire spinners, face painting, live music and all sorts of fun for art-walkers.

Catch an exhibition by Colorado artist Santiago Jaramillo during the Breckenridge Día de los Muertos Festival.
Catch an exhibition by Colorado artist Santiago Jaramillo during the Breckenridge Día de los Muertos Festival.
Santiago Jaramillo

Breckenridge Día de los Muertos Festival
Downtown Breckenridge
Friday and Saturday, November 1 and 2, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

BreckCreate gets festive for Día de los Muertos with two days of events in the mountains. Start at the gratis face painting and Día de los Muertos photo booth at Gallery@OMH, 136 South Main Street, which will also host an opening blessing with the Aztec dance and music group Chimalton on November 1, followed by an artist talk with Santiago Jaramillo, whose current exhibition, Ancient Roots and Modern Altars, runs through November 24; then stick around for an opening-night party with Mariachi Internacional Denver that blasts into the Old Masonic Hall from 5 to 8 p.m. Various hands-on workshops will also be offered at assorted downtown locations on November 1 and 2; get the full picture at the BreckCreate website.

South Pearl Street fetes Día de los Muertos on first Friday.
South Pearl Street fetes Día de los Muertos on first Friday.
Courtesy of 5 Green Boxes

Fiesta de los Muertos
1400 and 1500 blocks on South Pearl Street
Friday, November 1, 4 to 9 p.m.

A handful of South Pearl Street merchants are banding together for a neighborhood bash on the retail and restaurant row overseen by R Bazaar, an organization that supports refugees and immigrants through entrepreneurship (and has recently opened a storefront, Ruby’s Market, on the street). Enjoy paper-flower workshops and eats by Mujeres Emprendedoras Cooperative; shop for Día de los Muertos merchandise at Ruby’s and stores like 5 Green Boxes, Whole Cat and Second Star to the Right Books; or let makeup artists put on your best calaca face for a shoot with a professional photographer.

Celebrate the Day of the Dead family-style with Latin Fashion Week.
Celebrate the Day of the Dead family-style with Latin Fashion Week.
Latin Fashion Week

Colorado Day of the Dead Fest 2019
Denver Center for International Studies at Fairmont, 520 West Third Avenue
Friday, November 1, 5 to 8:30 p.m.

Latin Fashion Week Colorado makes a point of inviting folks from every culture, race and religion to join this community-style, family-friendly fest that includes a costume parade, Coco movie characters, storytelling, folkloric dancers and mariachi music, as well as hands-on fun and delicious food.

Longmont's Day of the Dead Family Fiesta is fun for everyone!EXPAND
Longmont's Day of the Dead Family Fiesta is fun for everyone!
Longmont Museum

Day of the Dead Family Fiesta and Gigantes Procession
Fourth Avenue and Kimbark Street, Downtown Longmont
Fiesta: Saturday, November 2, 2 to 6 p.m.
Procession: Saturday, November 2, 6:15 to 7 p.m.

The Longmont Museum and Firehouse Art Center join forces and invite the whole town to party in the streets with the dead for free, beginning with traditional family fun and entertainment in the afternoon, followed by a Gigantes Procession of life-sized papier-mâché calacas. You’ll also want to stop at the museum, 400 Quail Road in Longmont, for a look at its annual Day of the Dead exhibit, one of the largest in the state. If you can’t fit it in, the show remains on view through November 4.

Celebrate the dead at Longmont's Catrina Ball.EXPAND
Celebrate the dead at Longmont's Catrina Ball.
Longmont Museum

Seventh Annual Catrina Ball
Dickens Opera House, 300 Main Street, Longmont
Saturday, November 2, 7:30 to 11 p.m.
$15 in advance or at the door

Don’t go home after Longmont’s spectacular Gigantes Procession: Hang in for the Catrina Ball, a Day of the Dead costume fundraiser including dancing, entertainment, altars and a $4 blood punch special at the Dickens Opera House. Bring your bones and dance the night away with your ancestors.

The dead rise at the Denver Botanic Gardens, which was built on top of the old city cemetery.EXPAND
The dead rise at the Denver Botanic Gardens, which was built on top of the old city cemetery.
Denver Botanic Gardens

Día de los Muertos Night
Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street
Saturday, November 2, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Admission: $9.50 to $12.50, members free

The Botanic Gardens takes a quick break between Halloween and Christmas holiday displays for an elegant Día de los Muertos observance that winds through the facility’s garden plots and indoor spaces, unveiling special altars and displays, holiday-specific vendors, a face-painting corner, kids’ craft stations and performances by Baile Folklórico México en la Piel and Mariachi Los Correcaminos of MSU Denver at every turn.

Día de Los Muertos Block Party
Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, 7777 West 29th Avenue, Wheat Ridge
Saturday, November 2, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Free, RSVP at eventbrite.com

Crown Hill’s Día de Los Muertos Block Party shines not only because it’s so community-oriented, but also because it's one of the few events around that actually takes place in a cemetery, where perhaps a few of your own ancestors might be sleeping. Whether or not you have family in the graveyard, it’s still a beauty out there among the tombstones and monuments, replete with all the expected Day of the Dead food, fun and hoopla.

Día de Los Muertos Celebration
Thornton Arts & Culture Center, 9209 Dorothy Boulevard, Thornton
Saturday, November 2, 4 to 8 p.m.

Thornton chips in with another community event, inviting the public to add photos of loved ones to a large altar and shop an art sale, while Salida Circus stilt-walkers wander past and balloon artists create a balloon memorial wall. Wear a costume, get your face painted, eat well.

Denver’s Fifteen Best Día de los Muertos Celebrations (13)EXPAND
The Shop at Matter

Día de los Muertos Pop-Up
The Shop at Matter, 2134 Market Street
Saturday, November 2, noon to 3 p.m.

Here’s a way for DIYers to celebrate the festival of the dead: by shopping the hippest of the hip Día de los Muertos gear, direct from Mexico and including enamelware, modern ex votos and decorations, at the Shop at Matter. Other wares include Día de los Muertos mosaics from Pam Farris, original artwork from Gloria Vialpando, sugar skulls and other works from artist Cee Martinez — and for the non-materialists in the house, tarot readings by Cultivated Current. Food, drinks and spirits, high or otherwise, will be offered.

Head for outer space with the Fantastic Hosts at Destination Xibalba: a Fantastic Día de Muertos Adventure.EXPAND
Head for outer space with the Fantastic Hosts at Destination Xibalba: a Fantastic Día de Muertos Adventure.
Courtesy of Victor Rosario © 2019

Destination Xibalba: a Fantastic Día de Muertos Adventure
Bar Standard, 1037 Broadway
Saturday, November 2, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Admission: $23 to $28 at eventbrite.com

So you’re the person in the room looking for a more sophisticated Día de Muertos celebration for adults? This is for you, as long as you don’t forget why we’re all partying like it's the end of the world. Party-makers the Fantastic Hosts inject the core nut of what the holiday is all about: honoring the dead with offerings and remembrances by reviving folkloric and mythical figures including “catrinas, calaveras, high priestesses, spirit warriors, underworld demons, sirenas, jaguar lords, feathered serpents, diablitos and ancient astronauts” — for an extraordinary 21+ costume ball.

Day of the Dead 5K
Washington Park, 1000 South Downing Street
Sunday, November 3, 9 to 11 p.m.
Registration fee: $30

This is Colorado, where folks like to keep fit. Dedicated athletes can run with the dead at this costume-friendly Sunday morning race from Colorado Runner Events. Celebrate life while honoring the departed, and keep your ancestors in mind as you go.

Do you have an event you want included on a Westword list? Send the details to editorial@westword.com.

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