The Chikawa Aztec Dancers

The Chikawa Aztec Dancers will return to Nacogdoches for the third annual Día de los Muertos Fiesta Saturday night, Nov. 7, in downtown Nacogdoches.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Chikawa Aztec Dancers will return to Nacogdoches for the third annual Día de los Muertos Fiesta set for 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches.

Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead observance, is considered a cheerful celebration of life, honoring the souls of the deceased. Día de los Muertos is a Mexican term derived from the Roman Catholic All Saints' and All Souls' days, traditionally observed Nov. 1 and 2. An array of activities, ranging from decorating graves to creating home altars, typically highlight the celebration that can last for days.

For the past two years, hundreds of East Texas residents have attended the Nacogdoches festival, and this year's event is drawing more entertainment, more booths and greater interest as the festival gains popularity, according to Lisa Steed, events coordinator for Stephen F. Austin State University Art Galleries.

"We have multiple food booths, including Shelley's Bakery Cafe, Merci's World Cuisine, TacoMex, Friends of the Visual Arts and others," Steed said. "We have a lot more SFA club participation this year, as well."

Among the other featured booths are Nacogdoches High School floral shop, NHS Art Club, SFA Art Alliance, SFA Metals Club, SFA School of Theatre's face painting, SFA Asian Culture Club, SFA Knights of Columbus, SFA Organization of Latin Americans, Angelina Spanish Club, and more.

Among the entertainment will be the popular Chikawa Aztec Dancers, Martinez Mariachi Duo, Juan Carlos and Jenna Urena and the SFA Jacks of Steel. Based in Conroe, Chikawa Aztec Dancers with their colorful costumes are always a crowd pleaser, Steed said.

"We will also have the traditional Day of the Dead procession, and anyone can participate," she said. "Costumes are highly encouraged, especially Day of the Dead themed costumes."

The community altar returns this year in the window of Cole Art Center where remembrances or a photo of a loved one who has passed on can be included. Local artist Carol Eaton Walsh will also have an altar outside in the festival area.

The SFA School of Theatre will paint sugar skulls as a fundraiser, and there will be a free booth where children of all ages can color a paper mask. A silent art auction inside Cole Art Center will feature donated work by local artists and students. Although some booths charge a fee, the festival is free.

Fiesta sponsors are Main Street Nacogdoches, Hampton Inn & Suites Nacogdoches, 103 The Bull, R&K Distributing, University Rental, SFA Friends of the Visual Arts and SFA Sound Recording Technology program. The fiesta is organized by SFA Art Galleries.

The Cole Art Center is located at 329 E. Main St. For more information, call (936) 468-6557.