Day of the Dead celebration returns ‘live’ to Medina on Oct. 23

Photos by T.C. Owens: Leonel Rosario adjusts the decorations on a mono de calenda (street puppet) at the 2019 Day of the Dead celebration in Medina.

Posted 14 October 2021 at 8:45 am

Press Release, Geneses-Orleans Regional Arts Council

Antonio Cruz Zavaleta creates a Oaxacan sand painting at the 2019 Day of the Dead Celebration in Medina.

MEDINA – The fourth annual Mexican Día de los Muertos celebration will return in “live” format this year in Medina on Saturday, October 23 at the Orleans County YMCA, 306 Pearl St.

Come learn about and enjoy this holiday that remembers ancestors, with free activities from 3 to 7 pm. The festivities will include Mexican crafts, face painting, dance and drama performance, sand painting and ofrenda displays, special food tastings, and food trucks.

All activities will continue throughout the day at this family-friendly event. Attendees will need to wear face masks. A full schedule can be found at

The Mexican Day of the Dead Celebration is a time of joyful remembrance of deceased loved ones, filled with an array of colors, scents, sounds and stories. Centered around the Christian observance of All Saints and All Souls Days on November 1 and 2, the celebration also includes images and ideas about the roles of ancestors in our lives, that trace back to Mexico’s indigenous peoples. Tradition holds that this is the one time of the year when souls can return to earth for a day and commune with their families and friends.

“We’re excited to have an in-person event this year, with the continuing support of local Medina businesses and community members,” said Karen Canning, director of GLOW Traditions at GO ART!

Mexican celebrations of the holiday often include animated skeletons and colorfully decorated skulls (calaveras), emphasizing life’s continuing vibrancy in the midst of mortality.

Downtown business owners are offering these arts workshops at the YMCA in sugar skulls, paper flowers and banners, and paper masks, and include The Author’s Note Bookstore, Della’s Chocolates, The Downtown Browsery, Pathstone Corporation, and Rosenkrans Pharmacy.

Canalside Tattoos will offer temporary tattoos, and Case-Nic Cookies will have Day of the Dead themed treats for sale. GO ART! and Mariachi de Oro staff will offer above-the-mask face painting, while Celebrity Day Spa is selling a more elaborate version before the event at their store location. Mariachi de Oro will provide samples of Mexican hot chocolate and pan de muerto (bread of the dead), a typical food of the holiday, and Dubby’s Wood Fired Pizza Food Truck will offer more substantial fare for sale outside the YMCA.

Lola Alvarado, center, and Gladys Rosario, right, show their Dia de Muertos face paint at the 2019 Day of the Dead celebration.

Beautiful altars (ofrendas) in homes welcome the returning souls and feature candles, wild marigolds, incense, photographs, mementos and loved ones’ favorite foods like fruit, tortillas, tamales, chocolate, and bread. Members of the Rosario family will again create a large ofrenda at the YMCA in the style of their hometown in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Artist Antonio Cruz Zavaleta will also create a sand painting in front of the ofrenda, another decorative art found in Oaxaca for the holiday—check the schedule for presentations of these artistic traditions. Attendees can contribute to a community ofrenda, where they can place a candle (electric, provided) and add their own remembrances of loved ones.

New this year are Mexican dance, music and dramatic performances by Alma de México, a group from Rochester led by Karla Alcalá. A former member of a folkloric dance group in Mexico, Karla now teaches community members traditional dance from a variety of regions.

The group will present a new dramatic piece featuring “La Catrina,” a figure originally drawn by Mexican illustrator, Jose Guadalupe Posada, that has become associated with the holiday. Live music will also be provided by La Marimba, a marimba band from Buffalo, led by Tiffany Nicely. The large monos de calenda (street puppets), created by artist, Antonio Cruz Zavaleta, will also return to dance and wander among attendees. Everyone’s invited to join in, and feel free to come in Day of the Dead themed outfits.

The event is co-sponsored by GLOW Traditions at GO ART!, Mariachi de Oro Restaurant, and the YMCA, with partial funding from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

Photo by Christine Zinni: Sue Fuller of Della’s Chocolates offers a paper flower-making activity at the 2018 Day of the Dead Celebration in Medina.