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Dia De Los Muertos Gala gets big turnout

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ALL AGES WELCOME: Monica Blaisdell-Zarate and her granddaughter Graylynn Made Morey were among those going all out at Thursday’s gala.
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DAY OF THE DEAD: Attendees at the inaugural Dia De Los Muertos Gala enjoyed the authentic food and other activities at Rigmig in Frankfort on Thursday evening.

By ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

The inaugural Dia De Los Muertos Gala on Thursday proved to be a great success with proceeds from the event at Rigmig Salon in Frankfort providing a boost to a local family in need.

“We are really, really content,” said Learning Network of Clinton County’s Coral Santos, one of the organizers. “We had a great turnout. We’re estimating that we had over 200 people attend at least.”

The event was free, but free-will donations were encouraged to help the Olivas family cover the medical costs associated with the treatment of 15-year-old Daniel Olivas, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ewing Sarcoma on Aug. 8, 2017 and has been battling the cancer ever since.

“We gathered just over $900 and the money was delivered to the Olivas that same night,” Santos said. “So, they were really happy and very blessed that we were able to do this event.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to do it every year for a different cause if we know families or just anyone that needs help. We are trying to do an official gala where we would have different things to sell like food so we could gather more money for different families.

“We’ll see what changes,” she added. “We don’t know what’s coming, but hopefully next year we’ll be able to do a better event.”

Anahi Santos spoke at the event describing in English and Spanish what The Day of the Dead is to familiarize those attending about the celebration.

“I think a lot of the people enjoyed the food and learning about a different culture or even learning more about their culture,” Learning Network office administrator Mari Cruz said. “There’s a lot of people that identify as Latino but don’t really know what Day of the Dead is. It was really nice for them to learn more about that and be a part of that celebration.

“I feel like here in the U.S. that people don’t really go out and celebrate it. They aren’t accustomed to big celebrations like they do in Mexico where they are really huge celebrations in the cities. I think it might have brought back a little bit of home, back to their old home here, and for others it was a really great experience to learn.

“We got a lot of comments about how they really enjoyed the food and the crowns that we were passing out and the face-painting and everything,” she added.

Everything was donated for the event, including the venue. Alex and Celestino Martines, aka the “Sonido Twins,” donated their time to DJ, Regions Bank donated cases of water and a long list of people donated authentic Mexican food.

Santos noted the cultural diversification of those attending was nice.

“We had people from different cultures,” she said. “I think that was one of the best things that we wanted. We want everyone to come and enjoy and everyone is welcome to come and enjoy.

“Seeing different faces and people of different languages, it doesn’t matter when it comes to that. Our goal is to unite the community.”