New Times: What's new this year?
Jim Hammond: We'll have an Aztec ritual, a traditional cleanse that involves a dance component, and it gives a blessing of respect of the north, south, east, west. We've always had ofrendas, which are a Day of the Dead tradition, but this year, we'll have a proper exhibition hall for it at the New River Inn. Sixteen community members built altars for remembrance of people they've loved and lost. And the Mexican Consulate in Miami will send a rep to introduce the traditions.
How did you get the Mexican Consulate involved?
I've been in touch with them from very early on, and a few years ago, they sent a rep to tour what we were doing, and they liked it but said when we have a proper ofrenda exhibit -- it's one of the most important aspects of the Day of the Dead -- they would participate. So this year, they will.
What else is cool this year is we have confirmation that four people will be leading the procession dressed up. Last year, we had Commissioner Dean Trantalis and Genia Duncan Ellis, the president of Riverwalk. They did the opening ceremony. Instead of just showing up this year, Dean, Genia, and City Manager Lee Feldman will arrive in full sugar-skull makeup. This is the photo op of the year! In addition to that, the general consul of Mexico will be introducing the procession at 3 p.m. onsite at Huizenga Park on Sunday.
It feels like we are on track. We've always believed in this tradition and that we are doing something larger than ourselves.