Arts and Culture

Nine Metro Denver Día de los Muertos Celebrations

Day of the Dead crafts at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Day of the Dead crafts at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Denver Botanic Gardens
Día de los Muertos is one of the loveliest holidays, when Mexicans around the world build altars to honor the dead and leave them ofrendas (offerings) of food and candy to sustain them on their post-mortem journey. Not intended to be spooky or scary or ridden with ghosts and vampires, El Día de los Muertos is a day to celebrate the spirits of loved ones. Those traditions are strong in Colorado, and Día de los Muertos festivities are thick along the Front Range, as October segues into November. Keep reading for nine celebrations around town, in chronological order.

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Tony Ortega's "Tío Samuel."
Tony Ortega
Día de los Muertos at the Dairy
Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut Street
Thursday, November 2, 5 to 8 p.m.

In collaboration with El Centro Amistad, a Boulder County nonprofit serving the Latino community, the Dairy puts on a more sophisticated but still family-friendly bash, and pairs it with a beautiful art exhibit that openly celebrates the true meaning of el Día de los Muertos and other Latino spiritual traditions. The evening tips off with Aztec dancers, free food, face painting, altar viewing and live performances in the Dairy lobby, as well as an opportunity for guests to browse the exhibit, Spiritual Dimensions, before adjourning to the Gordon Gamm Theater for a Latin American music concert. Then it’s back to the lobby for a Catrina costume contest, so be sure to wear your best set of bones, ladies.

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Pirate: Contemporary Art
Day of the Dead Show
Pirate: Contemporary Art
7130 West 16th Avenue, Lakewood
Friday, November 3, 5 to 10 p.m.

For decades, Pirate: Contemporary Art’s annual Day of the Dead Show was the co-op’s most graceful interface with what was once a largely Latino neighborhood. Residents would join in with the artists to built altars to the beloved dead inside the Navajo Street gallery and march side-by-side in a candle-lit processional to the nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe church. Fast-forward to the present, when Pirate has come ashore at a new location in Lakewood, and you’ll be happy to learn that the gallery members are bringing tradition with them. Pirate goes on with the show, with much of the old festivities still intact: There will still be community altars, Aztec dancers, piñata parties for kids and adults, and even a procession — now taking off for a festive jaunt through the 40 West Arts District.

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Museo de las Americas
First Friday Día de los Muertos
Museo de las Americas, 861 Santa Fe Drive
Friday, November 3, 5 to 9 p.m.

The Museo de las Americas jumps into the Day of the Dead fray by living it up on what’s also First Friday in the Art District on Santa Fe. Catch the Museo’s current exhibit, Las (H)adas, a tribute to the region’s Chicana artists, then mix up your art stroll with such Day of the Dead mainstays as tasty pan de muerto, face-painted calacas do-overs, sugar-skull decorating, spins by DJ @Pazmap, Grupo Tlaloc Danza Azteca and brews from the Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project. Admission is free, but there are $5 fees for skull-decorating and face painting; make your cash back with free Intrepid vouchers: The brewery is doing it up for El Día de los Muertos for First Friday, too — just around the corner from the Museo.

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Firehouse Art Center
Fifth Annual Catrina Ball and Second Annual Gigantes Procession
Dickens Opera House, 300 Main Street, Longmont
Friday, November 3, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Your best bet for Day of the Dead spectacle on the Front Range is up the road in Longmont, where the Firehouse Art Center throws a fiesta in St. Stephens Plaza, replete with altar tours and a larger-than-life procession of giant papier-mâché puppets, musicians and a parade of celebratory human calacas with noisemakers, all marching to the Dickens Opera House for the Catrina Ball. There, partiers will be served free food and regaled by Aztec and folkloric dancers and a Radio Olé DJ as they dance the night away.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd