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Honoring the dearly departed

Although Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead may sound frightful, it is not a day for zombies but rather a celebration to reunite the living with the dead. A celebration that brings families and community together. This cultural tradition originated with the Aztecs in Mexico about 3,000 years ago. Through the years it has evolved and is celebrated all over the world including the 209.


The celebration remembering those that passed with all the traditions including altars, a Catrin and Catrina Parade and Contest, food, and entertainment will be held on from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 28 at Plaza del Rio Park in downtown Riverbank.

“I feel it is really important to celebrate this event because it gives families an opportunity to celebrate and commemorate a lost loved one in a different way,” stated event organizer, Nancy Garcia. “The altars are tributes and remembrances to the people we have lost. As children grow up, and they see pictures of people who haven’t been a part of their life but seemed to be important in their parent’s life, this celebration provides that opportunity to talk about them and what they meant to them.”

The sophisticated altars traditionally have three levels, several elements, and offerings for the dearly departed. Pan de muerto represents the body and bones of the dead, tissue paper represents the wind and joy, sugar skulls represent the living giving a funny face to the inevitableness of death, water that allows the dead to cool off after their trip to the underworld and symbolizes purity that helps their sins be forgiven, a salt cross that symbolizes purity of souls, flowers that form the path that guides the soul and candles to guide the soul as well. Some people also put their loved ones that have passed away favorite foods, items, and pictures on display. 


There will be a Catrin and Catrina contest with participants that have detailed attire and face paintings. They will parade about the plaza with a statement to respect death. There will be vendors, live music, and entertainment including traditional Mexican Folklore Dances. 

This will be the third Día de los Muertos celebration held in Riverbank that has been well received by the public and very well attended. The first one was held in 2019 and organized by Garcia and a team of enthusiastic friends and colleagues. With so much positive feedback and several people asking her to do it again as well as the attendance that exceeded their expectations, Garcia collaborated with the City of Riverbank and other organizations to hold another celebration in 2021. They did not hold the event in 2020 due to COVID restrictions. 

“In my opinion, both events were successful, but the last one was even more so, but we had such little planning time and were able to plan the event and bring in more families, not just organizations to create altars,” added Garcia. “The thing I am looking most forward to, is seeing the altars that the families are creating.”


This year the City of Riverbank’s Parks and Recreation department in collaboration with Garcia will be hosting the event. There is no cost to attend the event. There are other celebrations that will be held throughout the 209.

“It is about remembering people,” expressed Garcia about the celebration. “They go on to another life and as long as we continue to remember them they will never die. That is the biggest piece.”

For more information on the celebration in Riverbank call the City of Riverbank at 209-863-7150 or visit