Reviving the Dia de Los Muertos Festival at Montie Beach Park last year meant more to Arturo Gutierrez than just bringing back an event he enjoyed growing up.
It had fizzled out a few years beforehand because the couple heading the event moved from the neighborhood and not enough volunteers were able to continue putting it on.
“The catalyst for me was the park itself. I saw green space in general. I saw an opportunity here at Montie Beach Park,” Gutierrez said. “So, one of the things I thought of is what can I do to raise money to improve the park and have people excited about it?”
That’s when he remembered the Dia de Los Muertos Festival and decided to bring it back to life, for both the cultural significance and to help raise funds for potential improvement. This year will be the second year of the event’s reincarnation.
The festival is taking place at Montie Beach Park, 915 Northwood St., from noon-8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2.
Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday celebrated throughout Latin America in remembrance of the dead.
The festival in the Greater Heights will continue the tradition with performances that will immerse the audience in Latin American sights and sounds. Performers include Mariachi Nueva Generacion, Folklorico Mixteco Ballet and HIIT Theatre.
“Folklorico Mixteco Ballet is really awesome,” Heights resident and festival volunteer Kristen Condon said. “It’s really fun to watch.”
Two area elementary schools, Browning and Field, also are participating with interactive exhibits detailing the culture surrounding Dia de Los Muertos and the Latin American community.
Vendors will sell themed goodies and food. Food trucks will be available as well as alcohol for sale on site.
“Last year, when we rolled it out again I had two or three people comment, ‘Oh, this is great. It takes me back to when I grew up in Mexico,’” Gutierrez said. “That in and of itself is something that the festival did. It was good for the community.”
Gutierrez said money generated from the festival will go toward a fund with the Houston Parks Board. That’s where it gets tricky for Gutierrez to get people excited about potential park improvements.
Gutierrez said the money goes toward a fund that goes toward a master plan, but no planning for improvements can happen until the money is raised for a master plan. To get a master plan, Gutierrez said the Montie Beach Civic Club has to raise $50,000 and only then can it begin talking with the community about possibilities for the park.
Gutierrez said the 23-acre park can be utilized in many ways, both tangible and intangible. He said improvements can better the facilities and enrich the lives of area residents.
For Gutierrez, the importance of the park was instilled in him at a young age.
“Melvin Mott was the community center manager here, and the guy was kind of one of those people that would set you straight,” Gutierrez said. “He would tell kids you can do better than what you are now. And it’s stuck with me now. It’s one of the reasons I see value in having a community center, or having someone who’s there as a role model and having a place to go.”
Other than dropping by the festival on Saturday, donations toward getting a master plan for Montie Beach Park can be made at https://www.montiebeach.org/dayofthedead.