Family engagement was the focus for the Nov. 5 community potluck and Dia de los Muertos celebration at Incline Elementary School, and by all accounts, the event was a huge success.
The result of the evening was an estimated 600 community members of all ages and backgrounds coming together for an abundance of food, art, dance and music.
The event was organized by IES teachers and administrators with a simple goal of showcasing the rich culture of our Latino community and creating a welcoming environment for all.
The potluck piece of the evening was a truly amazing display of culinary skill and pride. The 50-foot buffet line was overflowing with a vibrant collection of traditional Mexican dishes and the line of hungry attendees stretched throughout the gymnasium.
As people lingered in line, conversation and laughter passed the time, and all were in agreement that the bounty of food ahead was well worth the wait. A homemade salsa contest appealed to foodies and included 14 different entries that contrasted greatly in color and technique. Alma Brubaker won the contest and a $100 prize for her delicious salsa.
While families enjoyed a delicious meal they were treated to a number of performances focused around the Dia de los Muertos theme. PE teacher Michael Smith kicked off the entertainment by leading the Mexican Hat Dance with his partner and IES administrator Richard Mares.
With faces freshly painted, kindergartners followed by performing an exciting and colorful Zumba routine choreographed by teacher Lisa Unger. Second-graders in Rita Whittaker-Haun’s music class sang “A La Nanaita,” an homage to family members who have passed.
Mery Mares gave a bilingual talk on the symbolism of Dia de los Muertos and connected an inspiring message to parents that all things are possible and that our kids should follow their dreams.
The closing act was a traditional Aztecan dance group who dressed in spectacular gold garb and accompanied by a skilled hand drummer. The local dance group is composed of three generations of the Tatengo family and their routine helps keep Mexican history and culture alive.
As part of the Dia de los Muertos tradition, a community ofrenda offered families the opportunity to remember loved ones who have passed away by placing a photo or memento on the altar.
Art work from all schools in Incline (IES, IMS, IHS, LTS and SNC) decorated the walls, tables and air space throughout the gymnasium. People of all ages enjoyed the arts and crafts tables where they could make papel picados (paper cutouts), cempasuchiles (marigolds), and calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls).
As the end of the evening approached, people slowly filed out of the school with full stomachs and empty potluck containers in hand. The mood was festive, optimistic, and there was a sense of gratitude in being part of an amazing community full of culture and promise moving forward.
Family engagement was the goal of the event and that was achieved. Where do we go from here? That is a question left up to everyone who lives and works in this community, but on this particular night, the future looked quite bright.