HANFORD — Charlie Isidoro walked around the Civic Auditorium Thursday dressed as a full, three-tiered pink cake, complete with a white-painted face and a hat with a candle on top.
Not only was Charlie dressed-up, the whole Isidoro family were sharply dressed and sported white painted faces reminiscent of skeletons. Charlie was dressed as a cake because it was also her birthday.
The Isidoros were the hit of the evening, which was a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration organized by the Hanford Multicultural Theater Company.
Dia de los Muertos is a traditional Mexican holiday that focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember family members and friends who have died. Rituals, like creating altars for the loved ones, are believed to help support their spiritual journey.
The Isidoro’s have attended many Dia de los Muertos events, including ones in Fresno and Los Angeles.
“We’re big on culture,” Janie Isidoro said. “We’re super big on celebrating passed family. We have very dear people who have passed.”
Isidoro said the whole family always gets into the celebration because they can show who their family members were with the altars, instead of feeling sad about the deaths.
“We do [altars] every year at our house, too,” Isidoro said.
This was the first of many Dia de los Muertos celebrations that the Hanford Multicultural Theater Company wants to organize, said Artistic Director Silvia Gonzalez Scherer.
The celebration was put on as a fundraiser for the company, which provides free acting classes for children, teens and adults.
There were musical performances and dancing from an Aztec dance group from Huron; Mexican food, drinks and bread; altars; face painting and coloring; vendors selling jewelry, artwork and clothes; and the largest sugar skull in the Central Valley.
Board member Miguel Sanchez stood by proudly as the event’s attendees took turns taking pictures with La Catrina, an elegantly dressed woman skeleton, which has become a well-known figure in Dia de los Muertos celebrations.
Sanchez made La Catrina himself out of recycled materials like cardboard, wood, water bottles, foam, newspaper, fake jewelry and plastic. It was the first Catrina he’s ever made.
“I like it, and so far, other people like it too,” Sanchez said.
Anyone wishing to take a picture with La Catrina was asked to make a small donation to the Hanford Multicultural Theater Company to keep the free acting classes going.
Scherer estimates about 300 people made their way to the Civic Auditorium for the event, and said it went really well, especially for being the first event. She said she felt an “outpouring of love, support and culture within the community.
“It’s really amazing,” Sanchez said about the turnout for the event. “Next year we are planning to have the whole park, block it off and have a big event.”
Scherer said many of the vendors have already expressed interest in coming back to the event next year, something the board is thrilled about.
“We’re going to do this every year until infinity,” Scherer said.
Scherer gave a demonstration of the children’s acting class with some of the students, and she and the board members invited anybody who wants to take free acting classes from the theater company to visit one of the classes any time.
Scherer has big plans for the Hanford Multicultural Theater Company, and said the Dia de los Muertos celebration was just the first step in many community events she hopes to become a part of.
“This is awesome,” Isidoro said. “There’s not a lot of local stuff like this. It’s absolutely nice to have something local here.”