Chikawa Aztec Dancers

The popular Chikawa Aztec Dancers will return to Nacogdoches for the fourth annual Día de los Muertos Fiesta Saturday night, Nov. 5, in downtown Nacogdoches. Photo courtesy of Bill Nieberding.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – This year’s Día de los Muertos Fiesta will once again feature the popular Chikawa Aztec Dancers returning to perform at the fourth annual celebration slated for 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, in downtown Nacogdoches in and around The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House.

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 three years, hundreds of East Texas residents have attended the Nacogdoches festival, and this year’s event will provide the perfect addition to a fun-filled weekend, according to Lisa Steed, events coordinator for Stephen F. Austin State University art galleries.

“This year’s Day of the Dead celebration is on the night of SFA’s homecoming,” Steed said. “We want everyone to come downtown after the game and join us for fun, food and great entertainment.”

Among the entertainers will be the fascinating Chikawa Aztec Dancers, the Martinez Mariachi Duo, Charlie Jones & Friends and musicians Juan Carlos and Jenna Ureña. Based in Conroe, the Chikawa Aztec Dancers with their colorful costumes are always a crowd pleaser, Steed said. This year’s fiesta T-shirt will feature an image of an Aztec dancer.

“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.

The fiesta is organized by SFA Art Galleries, and a fundraiser for the gallery will feature original art and Day of the Dead vintage items. The Día de los Muertos Fiesta has become an event that brings diverse segments of the East Texas community together to celebrate life and art, Steed said.

“This event has become inclusive of all minority communities, not just those considered ‘art people,’” she said.

Steed said a favorite memory of hers from last year’s event occurred when she observed three Hispanic young men who were studying and discussing a piece of art in the hallway of Cole Art Center. They were talking about their different perceptions of what the work was about, when one of them pointed out the written description mounted on the wall beside the piece.

“Seeing those kids ‘find’ art for the first time is what we have wanted to do with this event and with the gallery,” she said.

Vendor booth spaces are still available. Among the vendors already committed to participating are SFA Art Metals, SFA Art Alliance, Friends of the Visual Arts, The Old Stone Fort, Nacogdoches Public Library with free children’s activities, SFA School of Theatre with face painting, and several food vendors, including Casa Morales and Birdie’s Bakery, and more.

Those interested in reserving booth spaces may email to receive a reservation form, which are also available at the Nacogdoches Public Library and The Cole Art Center.

Sponsors are also being solicited for the event. Confirmed sponsors include SFA Sound Recording Technology, R&K Distributors, the Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau and Friends of the Visual Arts.

For more information, call (936) 468-6557.