Annual Downey events to be conducted virtually

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By Arnold Adler

Contributing Writer

DOWNEY — The city’s annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Art Festival and the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas Parade will take place virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Downey Civic Theatre staff will conduct its seventh annual art event (online only) beginning at 11 a.m. Nov. 1.

At that time, viewers may go to DDLM.Downeytheatre.org for the free link to join the art program, a theater spokesperson said.

The chamber’s holiday parade will be videoed separately by unit from noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 6 on Third Street from Downey Avenue to Civic Center Drive and shown online in December, chamber Director Michael Calvert said in a request to the City Council.

The council approved the request Oct. 27.

Links to the parade and the parade date in December will be made available at various websites, including the city’s, the chamber’s and the Financial Partners firm, Calvert told a reporter.

He added that plans are to designate “drive-in” locations where parade viewers in cars can watch the parade on a big screen.

Theater officials said the art festival, based on the Hispanic cultural practice of honoring deceased family members and friends, will be free on Zoom at 11 a.m.

The first event, filmed live, will be a 60-minute workshop by Diego Marcial Rios, who will explain the history of “calaveras” (sugar skulls) and how to make and decorate your home with them.

Advance registration for the workshop is needed and limited to 100 households.

To register in advance for the sugar skull class go to Downeytheatre.org and click on “buy tickets,” the spokesperson said.

Another featured artist will be Martin Sanchez, who is known for making sculptures out of various  items, the spokesperson said.

Music and dance performances will be by five groups: Conganas, a Latin jazz and salsa band; Grupo Neblina, offering classical and modern tech fusion music; Mariachi Tierra Mia, traditional and modern music; and Mariachi Arcoiris, which claims to be the world’s first LGBT mariachi group.

There will be a 1950s Dia de los Muertos film, “Macario,” and a list of where other such movies may be found, the spokesperson said.

Other features include a list of 12 vendors selling ingredients and materials for the sugar skulls along with other Dia de los Muertos merchandise, the spokesperson said.

The festival also will include la cocina (the kitchen), offering pages of recipes for pan de muerto, champurrado, tamales and more, the spokesperson said.

Those who build an altar in their homes are invited to send pictures to the theater’s Facebook or Instagram page with the hashtag #DOWNEYDDLM for possible public viewing during the festival, the spokesperson added.

Calvert said he will invite 15 groups, including city officials, civic organization representative and musical groups to usher Santa into town. He said specific groups will be announced later.

Each group will be given a designated time to report to the U.S. Bank parking lot off Third Street to wait for their filming segment, said Management Analyst Judy Montenegro in a report to the council.

Members of the groups must wear facemasks and stay socially distanced from each other during the event, Montenegro said.

Those wishing to visit City Hall or the Police Station may enter on Civic Center Drive off Brookshire Avenue, north of Firestone Boulevard; or the Legacy Church parking lot, (off Second Street) she added.

“No parking signs will be posted on the Third Street section 72 hours in advance (Nov. 3) and affected merchants and business owners will be contacted by chamber officials, Montenegro said.

The city will use its own social media channels as well as the city’s website to notify residents, she added.

Cost to the city is estimated at $1,600 for police services and $2,500 public works staff for its assistance, such as for road closures, Montenegro said in her report.

Those costs will be reimbursed by the chamber, she said.

Arnold Adler is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers Norwalk, Downey, Paramount and Bellflower.