festival of the dead 2012

The Missoula Festival of the Dead parade will take place on Nov. 2 down Higgins Avenue. 

Photo by Tom Bauer

Missoula hosts many amazing events and festivals, and one of the oldest is a festival to honor the dead. 

The Missoula Festival of the Dead parade, which will take place this year on Sunday, Nov. 2, is a uniquely Missoula tradition that is close to many hearts.

It was started by artists Bev Glueckert and Mike DeMeng and will celebrate its 22nd anniversary this year, when the parade heads down Higgins starting at 6:30 p.m.

Glueckert and DeMeng drew on traditions of Dia de los Muertos as an inspiration to create a multicultural event that would allow Missoulians to explore and express issues associated with life and death during an evening parade. 

Everyone is welcome to participate in the parade. More information and a participant agreement form can be found on the festival’s Facebook page.

The Festival of the Dead has become a showcase of diverse and innovative art forms in which each individual, in their own personal way, can say farewell to a loved one who has passed on or honor the cycle of life and death. 

Recently, the Zootown Arts Community Center, or ZACC, has joined the festival fun. Leading up to the parade, ZACC holds free workshops for people of all ages to create artwork as catharsis for loss or just to celebrate the Day of the Dead.

ZACC also provides free face painting prior to the parade.

Attendees will see plenty of skeletons at the parade, both two dimensional and three dimensional.  There are dogs in skeleton costumes, and skeletons of humans, birds, bats and bison. There are skeletons with messages and silent skeletons.

But skeletons aren’t the only thing you’ll see.

The Soul City Brass Band leads the parade, followed by monstrous woodcut prints made by the University of Montana’s Steamroller Print Project, followed by various organizations and individuals all carrying their own art, including photos of loved ones, shrines and colorful parade “floats” mixed with various musical accompaniments. 

Parade favorites include the present incarnation of the ever-dead, but still alive-in-our minds “Dead Debutantes” (in which founder Glueckert participates), the Stevensville High School Band and Spanish class, and the Missoula Public Library “Diebrarians,” who have an intricate new bookcart choreography to perform each year.

VSA Montana has worked with Festival of the Dead for many years “to create a culture where people with disabilities are fully involved with the arts, as expressive artists, learners, and as audience members.” 

The Missoula Festival of the Dead is an entirely community-driven event and depends on volunteers and donations. Volunteers are still needed for various projects, including a fundraising bucket brigade during the parade called “Deadt Collectors.” 

For more information visit the Missoula Festival of the Dead Facebook page at facebook.com/Missoula.Festival.of.the.Dead.

And, don’t forget to join all the skeletons and their friends on Nov. 2 in downtown Missoula.

Festival of the Dead Events 2014

Friday, Oct. 10:  ZACC Third Annual Festival of the Dead Group Art Show and       Fundraiser, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at ZACC

 Thursday, Oct. 9, 16, 23, 30 and Saturday, Nov. 1:  ZACC Big (Wearable) Heads workshops for all ages, 6-8 p.m. (except Nov.1 from noon to 2 p.m.) at ZACC, free

 Sunday, Oct. 12: ZACC DIY Steam Roller Prints for all ages, 1-4 p.m. at ZACC, free

 Wednesday, Oct. 15:  ZACC Sugar Skull Workshop for all ages, 4-6 p.m. at ZACC, free

 Saturday, Oct. 18:  ZACC Shrine Building Workshop I for all ages, 6-8 p.m. at ZACC, free

 Wednesday, Oct. 22:  ZACC Shrine Building Workshop II for all ages, 6-8 p.m. at ZACC, free; Missoula Community Foundation hosts Willapalooza, 5-7 p.m. at MCT; UM Steamroller printmaking, 10 a.m. in front of the Dennison Theatre at UM

 Tuesday, Oct. 28:  Draughtworks Brewery Cheers for Charity Fundraiser, 5-8 p.m. at Draughtworks

 Sunday, Nov. 2:  ZACC facepainting prior to Festival of the Dead Parade, 1-4 p.m. at ZACC; Festival of the Dead Procession, Circle Square performances by Hypsy Gypsies and parade lineup, 4:30 p.m. at East Alder Street; performances by UM African dance class and Unity Dance and Drum, 6:15 p.m. at Caras Park

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