Dia de los Muertos

Awardee: Historic Downtown Chelan Association

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2019

City: Chelan

Chelan’s population is 40% Hispanic, yet little effort had been made to engage this significant segment of the community downtown. The Historic Downtown Chelan Association board, inspired by a RevitalizeWA workshop led by Norma Ramirez de Miess, became keenly aware of this and began efforts to reach out to leaders from the Hispanic business community. Through this concerted relationship-building, the importance of Dia de los Muertos to Mexican culture was discussed and the idea for a new event blossomed.

Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of loved ones who have passed. The downtown Chelan event was designed to educate those unfamiliar with the holiday of its meaning as well as create an event that would make the Hispanic community feel welcome and celebrated in downtown.
With just three months until the holiday, a committee including Main Street board members, Spanish teachers from local schools, local business owners, and members of the Todos United high school club came together to plan.

The schools’ involvement was particularly impactful toward the success of the event – curriculum was developed in Spanish classes that paired 4-person student teams with local downtown businesses to help the business create an ofendra, or altar, the central theme of the Dia de los Muertos holiday. Chelan High School Art classes were involved by designing and building pinatas for the event, and the Todos United club came out in full force with over 30 student volunteers.

The event itself drew large crowds to downtown Chelan! The community was invited to place their own pictures of loved ones, as well as flowers and other items, on the altars. There was plenty to eat and experience throughout the downtown, from sugar skull cookie decorating and tissue paper flower making to live music and dancing horses.

For a first-year event, Chelan’s Dia de los Muertos was able to achieve broad and resounding impact. It sparked excitement and created long-lasting partnerships. Most importantly, Chelan showed itself to be a community eager to demonstrate inclusivity, and this event provided a step toward that goal.