This post was guest written by Local First Arizona Intern, Annie Munroe If you have never been, you’ve got to go at least once – you won’t be disappointed. If you’ve already been, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The largest community led march in the United States is right here in Tucson and it’s happening this weekend. The All Souls Procession, in it’s 25th year is expected to attract from 100,000 to 120,000 participants from all over the country, to celebrate and honor their dead through artistic expression and community gathering.
Organized by Many Mouths, One Stomach (MMOS), the procession is "two-mile long human-powered procession that ends in the finalizing action of burning a large Urn filled with the hopes, offerings and wishes of the public for those who have passed." You can find a guide to the Procession and route map on the MMOS site. The All Souls Procession was started by local artist, Susan Johnson, who was grieving the loss of her father. The procession grew from a small group of 30 to a gathering of thousands. Artists and others create unique memorials to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed. People of all ages paint their faces to resemble sugar skills often used in Mexico’s traditional Dia De Los Muertos celebrations; items that are thoughtfully crafted and left at an altar to honor and remember the dead. MMOS describes it as "a sanctuary for community members from all walks of life to express their grief and loss in a celebration of creative energy and a rejoicing of living."
Many locally owned businesses are also offering events, many as benefits for the procession, so if large crowds aren’t your thing, or if you have kids, there is something for everyone:
On Friday from 7-9pm, Pop-Cycle will be hosting a show of art by Melo Dominguez, the artist who designed this year's posters and t-shirts for the procession.
Starting Saturday the Procession of Little Angels is geared toward the little ones. They’ll have wing making and face painting, an altar dedication and smaller scale march for kids of all ages. It ends with a poetry reading. Located in Armory Park, it starts at 3 p.m. Saturday November 8th and ends around 10 p.m.
Also on Saturday, at La Cocina check out the Night of the Living Fest, a one day festival of music and art. Music from artists all over the country plus local artists and vendors will pack La Cocina and provide full day entertainment. Night of the Living Fest is the official All Souls Procession pre-party, donating a percentage of each ticket sale to keep this wonderful tradition alive!
Now we’ve reached the big day. Don’t have the time or creativity to paint your face? Let Hotel Congress paint your face for you, for FREE. Face Paint Town boasts fun for the whole family from 2p.m. – 6p.m. and Maynards Market and Kitchen will be offering a mini market serving up tacos and other goodies while you wait. After the march head back to Hotel Congress for the after (life) party.
Borderlands Brewing is also hosting their 2nd Annual All Souls Procession Pre-Party and Art Show offering face painting as well as some sweet local bands and entertainment. Grab a bite to eat and plant yourself close to the start of the procession to make sure you get in on all the action. There are also great activities for kids right next door at Playformance.
Head over to the march, participate in all or a part of the procession, but definitely don’t miss out on the Grand Finale outside Mercado San Agustin. Right near the finale site the Mercado party includes, 20 food trucks, 15 retail vendors and live music from Tesoro, Vox Urbana and others. But wait, it’s not over yet. After the finale, head over to The Rialto Theatre for the official Dance of the Dead celebration and close out the night with more great local music.
Whether you are an annual participant, or you’ll be experiencing the All Souls Procession for the first time, there is something for everyone, a great way to support an event created by the community, for the community.