Longmont Museum’s Day of the Dead events mourn, celebrate loved ones who have died

Longmont Museum’s Day of the Dead events started small 19 years ago. It began as a grassroots effort by members of the community to bring meaningful programming to the museum for Latino residents. A community committee continues to do much of the planning.

“We really try to keep it grounded in the grassroots where it started,” said Kim Manajek, the museum’s director.

Keeping the events true to the heart of a community had some unexpected benefits. The Day of the Dead programming — with its combination of heartfelt commemoration of loved ones and a boisterous celebration of their continued impact on the living — also struck a chord with non-Latinx residents. Longmont Museum’s Day of the Dead events are believed to be the largest such celebration in the state, attracting roughly 6,000 people.

From a relatively modest start, “it has become something a lot bigger,” said Manajek. “It’s about sharing culture and bringing a lot of things for everyone to celebrate.”

Children can participate by making the holiday’s traditional sugar skulls and getting their face painted like skeletons. Family day brings dancing and procession of the Gigantes: traditional giant puppets. Family day was scheduled to move to Main Street in 2019, with food and dancing. Joining the Gigantes will be Catrinas, dancing skeletons whose fancy clothes derive from political satire dating to the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910.

Longmont Museum honors the remembrance part of Day of the Dead with a poignant exhibition of altars, necessary viewing for a full understanding of El Dia de los Muertos, as the holiday is known in Spanish. Profound in their simplicity, many of the altars — created by community members after an application process — convey their loss with pictures and everyday objects that belonged to those who have died.

by Cindy Sutter