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Close-up: Day of the Dead revival
Shelly Vida has never celebrated Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico.
In fact, she's never even been to Mexico.
But this year the performing arts and media coordinator at the Rotary Centre for the Arts is using the Mexican holiday as inspiration for the centre's Halloween party alternative: Sugar Skull Strut.
"The more I looked into it, the more I thought: I want to do this kind of (theme)," says Vida.
"I think it's just a beautiful art form."
For Vida, the Sugar Skull Strut is a fun Halloween alternative for adults who don't want to line-up at a downtown club or bar.
Her vision includes artistic make-up, festive music, margaritas and piñatas.
Interest has been good so far—the Rotary Centre is already anticipating the Sugar Skull Strut will become an annul event.
However, Halloween and Day of the Dead, are very different celebrations, surrounded by very different connotations.
In this week's Close-up, reporter Wade Paterson explains the inaugural Sugar Skull Strut, speaks to a Mexican international exchange student about what Day of the Dead means to her and gives a list of other Halloween events happening around the city.
The Rotary Centre for the Arts is going to look quite different Nov. 1.
From 8 p.m. to midnight, guests—many wearing make-up resembling different variations of skulls—will walk through the Mexican-themed building, while Vancouver band, Locarno, fills the air with Mexican folk and Cuban son.
Some will watch Kinshira Performance Troupe put on a fire poi show; others will sip margaritas in the black light lounge; a few may purchase items at the artisan Mexican marketplace.
A "red carpet photographer" will snap photos, post them to Facebook and prizes will be given out for various people's choice categories.
There will also be a photo booth so guests can take home a Sugar Skull Strut memento.
Shelly Vida, performing arts and media coordinator at Rotary Centre for the Arts, says she became interested in the Mexican celebration because of its association with art.
"Being an arts centre, I thought: Let's play up the art form of the sugar skull and do a Day of the Dead thing," says Vida.
She adds there doesn't seem to be enough for adults, other than clubs during Halloween; therefore, the Rotary Centre opted to put on an alternative event.
Vida says she has researched Day of the Dead and understands it's about honouring past souls and loved ones, rather than being spooked and exploring the dark side of death.
She says the Nov. 1 event is simply using the Mexican festivity—and the art that surrounds it—as a theme.
"We're not playing up too much on remembering your loved ones…it's more of an art party."
Much of that art will be seen on guests' faces.
Some make-up may have a "creepy" element, explains Vida; however, it doesn't have to.
"It doesn't have to be ghoulish, it can be beautiful.
"It can be anything from a swirl over your eyebrow to full-on make-up…regardless of whether you dress up at all, it's going to be the best party in town."
Before the party starts, make-up artists will be available from 6 to 8 p.m. for those who want a professional look. Appointments must be booked with the make-up artists, which can be done by e-mailing email@example.com.
Although many will be wearing make-up designs, costumes are not mandatory.
The Mexican marketplace will also be open prior to the event, from 6 to 8 p.m., for all ages.
The Sugar Skull Strut tickets are $25 if purchased in advance at the Rotary Centre or online at selectyourtickets.com. They can also be purchased for $30 at the door.
The event is for 19-plus only; ID is required at the door.
The celebration behind Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico is one that dates back hundreds of years to the Aztec culture. It's a festival dedicated to the spirits of the dead.
For most Mexican families, it is a two-day observance—Nov. 1 and 2—to create an altar in recognition of a deceased family member, says Maria Del Toro, a Grade 11 international exchange student in Kelowna.
"There is a sense of good feeling or peace that comes with connecting to the spirit of someone you have lost," says Del Toro.
"You make the connection by what is placed on the altar and just talking and remembering that person. It is different from a funeral church service, as it is more a celebration of that person rather than being sad that they are gone."
Del Toro says the makeshift altars, which families typically might spend an hour or two assembling, will feature a sugar skull, often decorated with paint, a loaf of what is called "dead bread"—a special bread made with added sugar—and mementos of the dead person: From the food they liked to eat to a glass of their favourite beverage.
She adds there is a vibrant element of art attached to the process, from the painting of the skull mask to using special paper to create art decorations for the altar, to placing marigold flowers on the altar for that day.
"Some people even create these altars at the cemetery as well, where the people are buried," she says.
Del Toro explains her school in Mexico also takes on Day of the Dead altar projects for famous Mexican people, a project that she says she always enjoyed doing.
On Nov. 1, the traditional belief is the soul of the dead person will come to the altar created in their honour and it will eat all the food that has been placed there.
"You can choose one person or you can choose a lot of people to recognize with the altar—it depends on the family."
Del Toro says many Mexican people will wear skeleton costumes and decorate the outside of their homes, but that is as close as her country gets to what we celebrate as Halloween.
"People have Halloween parties like you do here but that is more about the North American influence rather than having anything to do with what we celebrate as Day of the Dead."
There are no shortage of Halloween parties and events happening in Kelowna this year.
Listed below are a few ways you can enjoy the spookiest celebration of the year.
- From now until Nov. 1, the Kelowna Corn Maze is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. at 575 Valley Road in Kelowna. The day maze cost is $3 and the night maze cost is $5. For more information, phone 250-869-9495
- On Saturday, Oct. 19, Johnson Bentley Memorial Aquatic Centre in West Kelowna will host the Spooky Swamp Swim. There will be Halloween-themed games on deck, treats and a chance to visit the creepy cave. The event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. and is $3 per person. For more information, contact 250-768-4442
- On Wednesday, Oct. 23, Springvalley Elementary School will host Halloween Monster Bash from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event will include an all-ages haunted house, creepy cake walk, craft stations, inflatable slide and shooting gallery. The cost is a minimum $2 donation per person and station tickets are 25 cents each. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
- From Oct. 25 to Oct. 31, from 6 to 9 p.m. nightly, the Haunted Hall in East Kelowna will be open. The cost is $5, which will go toward the ongoing restoration of the East Kelowna Hall
- On Friday, Oct. 25, the Kelowna Art Gallery will host Aliens and 80s Halloween GO Party. The event runs from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets, which include the first drink, are $20 for members/students or $30 for non members and are available at the gallery, by calling 250-762-2226 or online at kelownaartgallery.com. The event is for 19-plus only
- On Friday, Oct. 25, The Habitat will host the fifth annual HorrorFest, presented by the Okanagan Society of Independent Filmmaking. The evening will include frightful films, live music, drinks, food and lots of "blood and gore." Doors open at 8 p.m.; the event is for 19-plus only. Tickets are $12 at the door or $10 in advance from Leo's Videos and $5 for OSIF members. For more information, contact email@example.com
- On Saturday, Oct. 26, from noon to 3 p.m., the Kelowna and District Safety Council will host the 10th annual Halloween Haunt. Visitors are invited to wear their costumes for the event, which is a safe alternative to Trick-or-Treating. A variety of Halloween-themed crafts, games and activities will be available. It's mostly an outdoor event, so dress for the weather. The cost is $4 and includes pizza and juice, as well as a goodie bag
- On Saturday, Oct. 26, CupCasions will host a children's craft event called Pump-kids Day. There will be crafts, face painting, cupcake decorating and more. The event is $5 per child, ages two to 12; parents and grandparents can come for free. There are four one-hour sessions available: 9 to 10 a.m., 10 to 11 a.m., 11 a.m. to noon and noon to 1 p.m. Pre-registration is required by calling the store at 250-860-3690
- On Saturday, Oct. 26, the third annual Okanagan Roller Derby Halloween Bout and Party will take place at the Sunplex Arena and Laurel Packinghouse. The doors open at Sunplex Arena at 6:30 p.m. with the first whistle expected for 7 p.m. The after party begins at Laurel Packinghouse at 9 p.m. The cost of the bout only is $10, after party only is $15 or $20 for both events. Tickets are available at Cherry Hill Coffee, Don't Look Down Tattoo, Dunnenzie's Pizza or Leo's Video
- On Sunday, Oct. 27, from 1 to 4 p.m., the Capital News Centre will host the Family Monster Bash. Activities include: Free skate from 1 to 3:30 p.m., games on the fields, a bouncy house, face painting, cookie decorating, prizes and treats. The event is recommended for ages two to 12. The cost is a non-perishable food item for the Kelowna Community Food Bank; skate rentals are an additional cost
- On Sunday, Oct. 27, Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park will host the Spooktacular Halloween Pumpkin Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. Carved pumpkins can be dropped off between 3 and 5 p.m. on Sunday (remember to bring an L.E.D. tea light candle or similar device to light your pumpkin). Then, from 5 to 8 p.m., visitors can stroll the paths and view the display of carved pumpkins. Prizes will be awarded for the top pumpkins in various categories. The event is free; however, donations for the food bank will be collected. Visitors are encouraged to come dressed in their Halloween costumes
- On Thursday, Oct. 31, the Okanagan Heritage Museum will be handing out Halloween treats between 4 and 7 p.m.
- On Thursday, Oct. 31, Kelowna Community Theatre will host the first annual Haunted Howler Comedy Fest. The evening will feature four top-notch comics from across the country, a costume contest, Halloween treats, a live DJ, adult beverages and a full-blown haunted house. The event, which begins at 8 p.m., is open to all ages. General tickets are $24.25; student tickets are $19.25. They can be purchased at selectyourtickets.com.