Breckenridge celebrates life, culture with Dia de los Muertos |

Breckenridge celebrates life, culture with Dia de los Muertos

This weekend, Breckenridge Creative Arts will hold its second annual Dia de los Muertos celebration, Friday, Oct 23 to Sunday, Oct. 25.
Courtesy Breckenridge Creative Arts |

Schedule of events

Friday, October 23

Día de los Muertos | Opening Party & Reception, 6 to 8 p.m., Old Masonic Hall, free

The community is invited to the first night of the weekend festivities to celebrate the dead and honor the living at the Día de los Muertos kick-off party. The evening will feature a cash bar, music, traditional face painting, and a reception for educator and collector César Muñoz, whose Day of the Dead installation will be on view at Old Masonic Hall through October.

Saturday, October 24

Aztec Dance Workshop, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Old Masonic Hall, upper studio; free — advanced registration requested

Learn the history and significance of the danza to Día de los Muertos with Grupo Huitzilopochtli Danza Azteca. The company has been in the Denver area for 40 years and is under the direction of Capitan Raul Chavez, a fifth-generation danzante from Mazatlan, Mexico. This hands-on dance workshop will prepare families for the candle light vigil on Saturday night and the altar dedication on Sunday. Participants will be able to join in one of the grupos sacred dances for these two events, if they wish.

Mask-Making for Families, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Old Masonic Hall, lower studio; free — advanced registration requested

Inspired by sugar skull face painting, you will learn how to decorate your own unique Day of the Dead mask. But unlike face paint, you won’t have to wash your mask off at the end of the celebration. Mask making is an ancient form of celebration and reverence in Mexico. All materials provided.

Community Altar, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Randall Barn; free

Day of the Dead altars honor the lives of those who have passed. The community is invited to bring photographs of loved ones and flowers to place on a communal altar that will be on display in the Randall Barn on the Breckenridge Arts District campus. Instructions and history of the altar will be given throughout the day in Spanish and English. Little calavera notes will be adorned with your personalized messages to send greetings to those dearly departed.

Día de los Muertos Face Painting, 12 to 5 p.m., Quandary Antiques Cabin; free — first come, first served

Artist Leah Reddell brings her extreme face painting experience and love for Day of the Dead festivities to Breckenridge for a weekend of creative face paintings of skulls, masks, and flowers.

Aztec Dance Workshop, 1:30–3 p.m., Old Masonic Hall, upper studio; free — advanced registration requested

Learn the history and significance of the danza to Dìa de los Muertos with Grupo Huiziloptchli Danza Azteca.

Community Altar, 1:30–3 p.m., Randall Barn; free

Paper Flowers/Papel Flores-Making for Families, 1:30–3 p.m., Fuqua Livery Stable; free — advanced registration requested

Come learn the tradition of creating handcrafted paper flowers. In this workshop you will learn the art of Papel Picado and traditional Mexican paper flowers.

Candle Light Vigil & Community March, 6:30–7:30 p.m., Ridge Street Arts Square, free

This is a time of remembrance, sacred tradition, love and bringing all our community together.

Sunday, October 25

Sugar Skull Decorating for Families, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Fuqua Livery Stable; free — advanced registration requested

Mexico possesses a rich and complex relationship with death that extends far beyond the Day of the Dead holiday and its iconic sugar skulls. In this workshop you will receive an introduction to the customs of Día de los Muertos and the symbolism of the sugar skull. Participants will be taken through the sugar skull making process step by step, and then create their very own skull art. All materials provided.

Aztec Dance Parade & Altar Dedication, 12 to 1 p.m., Ridge Street Art Square & Randall Barn, free

Día de los Muertos Face Painting, 12 to 3 p.m., Quandary Antiques Cabin; free — first come, first served

This weekend, Breckenridge Creative Arts will hold its second annual Día de los Muertos celebration, Friday, Oct 23 to Sunday, Oct. 25. With the help of the Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU), this upcoming three-day celebration will have a variety of free classes, performances and family-friendly workshops. Although the events are free, it is a first-come, first-serve basis. Families can reserve a spot for certain workshops by calling Breck Create at (970) 453-3364.

The Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebration derives from Mexican culture, a tradition that honors deceased family and friends yearly. Calaveras de azucar (sugar skulls) are made, altars de muertos (alters of the dead) are constructed and ofrendas or offerings are all part of the tradition. The celebration is a welcoming of the cycle of life and death that has derived from ancient Aztec traditions that evolved in Mexico for more than 3,000 years and has become a big part of their culture.

Robb Woulfe, president and CEO of Breckenridge Creative Arts, look forward to the weekend event.

“We are honored to once again host this important celebration for our community,” he said. “Día de los Muertos is a celebration of life, culture and creativity, so we invite everyone to come out and experience the traditions of this colorful holiday, from Aztec dance workshops, to paper flower-making, to building a celebratory altar to honor our loved ones.”

Jenn Cram, director of public programs and engagement with Breckenridge Creative Arts, has high hopes for this weekend as well as future events.

“Our hope with this year and upcoming years is to continue to grow the event and bring the different aspects of the traditional crafts to the community,” she said.

The event will feature crafts, such as sugar skulls, to be decorated. New this year is the skeletal face painting, the Aztec dance workshop, the paper-flower workshop and the candlelight vigil. For only being in its second year, the event has clearly grown since last year.

Renee Fajardo, director of Journey Through Our Heritage Program, MSU Denver, wants to show that these workshops aren’t just something to do, but are a part of history and tradition.

“When you make a sugar skull, you’re making a prayer. When you make these masks, you’re taking yourself from this realm of reality into the spirit world,” she said. “The paper flowers — most people think of tissue paper but in Mexico, the flower represents a vibrant connection to life, connecting this universe into the next universe.”

One of the main highlights will be the community altar that will be displayed at the Randall Barn in the Breckenridge Arts District. The creating of the altar is a very important tradition during Día de los Muertos, and the altar at Randall Barn will be on display all weekend.

Cesar Munoz, a local educator and collector, will be displaying his Day of the Dead art installation, which will be at the Old Masonic Hall through the rest of October.

Fajardo will be leading the celebration with other bilingual student teachers all from MSU Denver. She will share the Día de los Muertos history and traditions through some free classes and community events.

“Colorado has a very rich and vibrant Mexican and Chicano-Latino history,” she said. “My family and many of our families were here before this was even the state of Colorado. We’re miners and worked in the fields and really helped establish Colorado.”

A traditional Aztec dance troupe, Grupo Huitzilopochtli Danza Azteca, will come up from Denver to perform throughout the weekend as well as lead some workshops. The classes, workshops and performances are all free and open to the public.

“We’re running these workshops and bringing up a lot of education,” Fajardo said. “We don’t want it to just be, you come in and make a sugar skull and take off. We are bringing up information on the history of sugar skulls, the history of Day of the Dead, the history of mask making and we are also bringing up an Aztec dance group that is made up of Mexicanos from Mexico and Chicanos from here. They’ll be doing the processional, but we’ll be explaining the danza. It’s basically a prayer to call in the ancestors. We’re trying to make this very authentic but also very spiritual.”

The Breckenridge Arts District Campus on Ridge Street and Washington Avenue will hold the weekend celebration.

“The entire goal is to really share the traditions of the Day of the Dead celebration,” Cram said.

Breckenridge Creative Arts brought this celebration to Summit County in hopes of bringing in some life for the locals during the slow season.

“Breckenridge Creative Arts is looking for different avenues to bring creative experiences to our community and during October, it tends to be a slower time and this is such a vibrant, exciting celebration,” she said. “We really want to present diverse offerings and the Day of the Dead celebration is so rich.”

With the help of MSU Denver’s Chicano/Chicana studies, the Colorado Folks Art Council and the Aztec dance troupe, the Breckenridge Creative Arts hopes to see this event grow in the future, bringing in new elements of fine craft and tradition.

“Every single culture is an indigenous culture, so it doesn’t matter if you’re European or Australian or African. Part of it was honoring your elders and ancestors and what was passed on from them because that’s how you survived,” Fajardo said. “These are ways to make everyone feel included, that you are part of a bigger tradition. Day of the Dead is now really something that celebrates all cultures and all people’s ancestors and the passing of wisdom.”


The celebration starts Friday, Oct. 23, with an opening party and reception at 6 p.m. at the Old Masonic Hall. On Saturday, Oct. 24, the Aztec dance workshop will take place at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., where people can learn the history and the significance of the danza to Día de los Muertos. As some dance their way into celebration, others can learn how to decorate their very own Day of the Dead mask.

The community altar will also be on display at this time at the Randall Barn at 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. The community is welcome to bring in photographs of their deceased loved ones as well as flowers to place on the altar. Notes can be written to loved ones as well and these calavera notes will be adorned.

From noon to 5 p.m., artist Leah Reddell will be offering traditional face painting at the Quandary Antiques Cabin for anyone wishing to participate.

At 1:30 p.m., families are welcomed into the paper flowers workshop at the Fuqua Livery Stable. Families can learn the tradition of creating these flowers by artist Papel Picado.

Saturday evening, starting at 6:30 p.m. and lasting an hour, the Candle Light Vigil and Community March will take place. Starting at the Ridge Street Arts Square, families are welcome to this time of remembrance where they can carry pictures of their lost loved ones during the march. The community comes together as Dr. Renee Fajardo speaks of the importance of this march during Día de los Muertos.

Sunday morning kicks off with sugar skull decorating at 11 a.m. at the Fuqua Livery Stable. Participants will receive an introduction to Día de los Muertos customs and symbolism of the sugar skull.

At noon at the Ridge Street Art Square and Randall Barn, the Aztec dance parade and altar dedication will take place. Grupo Huitzilopochtli Danza Azteca has created a special performance which features Aztec warriors. Coinciding with this performance will be another session of the Día de los Muertos face painting with Leah Reddell, who will accommodate as many people as she can before 3 p.m.

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