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Downtown Welcomes All Souls Procession 2016

by Kai Parmenter

It’s that time of year again, when spirits emerge to join the living in celebration and remembrance. We’re of course talking about the All Souls Procession, which has become one of Downtown’s largest annual festivals, with over 150,000 participants. This year’s event is shaping up to be the grandest one yet, and promises a weekend brimming with art, music, reminiscence and camaraderie.

Taking place on November 5th-6th, this year’s All Souls Procession Weekend is packed with activities. Saturday will feature the Procession of Little Angels, a smaller, family-oriented event from 3-7 p.m. in Armory Park, where children can paint wings, dress in costumes made in Procession-related kids’ workshops, and have their faces painted. Tucson Circus Arts and Stories that Soar! will be teaming up to perform children’s stories about death and grief. Shrines of remembrance will also be on display throughout the park, as part of the Personal Altars Vigil. (Participants are welcome to create a shrine or altar in memorial of loved ones, and can reserve a space here.) The evening will close out with a procession around the park as the sun sets.

Sunday is the main event: the All Souls Procession through Downtown. Gathering for the Procession will begin at 4 p.m. around the intersection of 6th Avenue and 7th Street, with participants lining up on 7th Street. Located at the starting point will be the Gateway Stage, which will feature live music from Very Be Careful and DJ Dirty Verbs to kick things off. The Procession will begin at 6 p.m. sharp, following a southwesterly route through Downtown that spans approximately two miles. This year’s Procession will include seven unique art installations at various points along the route, and a bunch of food trucks and other vendors along Congress Street. View the full route here.

The Procession will close out with a huge Finale Ceremony, where offerings made to the Urn carried at the front of the Procession will be lifted high above the crowd and burned. The Ceremony will also include performances from five local spirit groups, with nearly one hundred people onstage simultaneously. Anyone can submit offerings to the Urn, either online or at various points throughout the Procession Weekend. Submissions can include everything from prayers and letters to names or pictures of loved ones. The Finale will be held at approximately 8:30 p.m. in the lot adjacent Mercado San Augustine, at 100 South Avenida del Convento. (There will be cleanup at the Finale site at 10 a.m. the following morning. Join them and help out, if you can!)

As if that weren’t enough, there will also be a ton of pre- and post-parties for the Procession. Visit Hotel Congress between 12-6 p.m. the day of for a free face painting, then come back after the Finale Ceremony for their equally free after-party, with live music from Dustbowl Revival and Mission Creeps. Mercado San Augustine will be hosting a $5 Pre-and-Post Party, with all proceeds benefitting the Procession. Stop by the Avenida de Memoria Pre-Party at Haggerty Park on 4th Avenue for face painting and music, or head over to Johnny Gibson’s Downtown Market, where artists from GlitterGirlAZ will also be doing face painting.

And then there’s Night of the Living Fest. Running concurrently with the Procession, Night of the Living Fest is a three-day music festival beginning on Friday, November 4th, with shows through Sunday, November 6th at 191 Toole, in Downtown. Better still, the Sunday night show is FREE, and a portion of the proceeds from the event will go to the Procession, so be sure to catch some music that weekend.

What’s more, the Procession just launched a slick app for iOS and Android, which is free, and includes a ton of useful information on this year’s event including the route, where to watch, how to get more involved or make a donation, registering for large groups or floats, and info on other Procession-related events and workshops. You can even read up on the history of All Souls Procession, watch videos and provide feedback, all right on the app, which you can download here.

Now in its 27th year, All Souls Procession first began in 1990, when local artist Susan Johnson was grieving the passing of her father. “When her father died, she wanted to create a ceremony for him,” says Nadia Hagen, Artistic Director for the Procession. “So she got some of her artist friends together…they made masks and costumes, then had a really small, intimate procession down to the fountains at city hall.”

By the time Hagen joined the Procession in 1996, it had grown to include several hundred people, yet remained a relatively small, semi-private event. “I wanted to make it very, very public…and inclusive,” notes Hagen, who began advertising workshops open to all in the weeks prior to the Procession. “It started to balloon. It went from a thousand [participants] to five thousand to ten to now where it is, over a hundred thousand.”

The size and theme for the Procession may have changed over the years, yet the purpose has always remained the same. “The intention of the event is always to honor the ancestors,” says Hagen. The theme for this year’s Finale Ceremony is The Hunter & The Hunted.

For all other information on All Souls Procession, visit their website here.