DUNEDIN — Tonight, just before dusk, as families gather in Pioneer Park to watch the horror-comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, some bare-boned creatures will be there roaming about.
Skeletons, or calacas as they are known in Mexico.
Unlike their scary Halloween counterparts, these pleasant souls have returned to celebrate the annual Dia de los Muertos Fiesta, or Day of the Dead Festival, hosted by Casa Tina's Mexican Restaurant.
"The Day of the Dead is a Mexican tradition that honors our loved ones who have passed on," said Tina Marie Avila, owner of Casa Tina's. "It's not morbid at all. The calacas represent our souls. They are happy and enjoying the afterlife."
That's why, she said, they typically are depicted in colorful festive clothing, often with sombreros or feathered hats, with many playing guitars or dancing.
The Day of the Dead originated with the pre-Hispanic, indigenous people of Mexico who believed that the souls of the dead return each year to visit the living. Altars of food, flowers, candles and religious icons welcome them home.
Casa Tina's and 13 other downtown Dunedin businesses have built altars for the occasion.
"Some (altars) are tongue in cheek," Avila said. "For instance, Jensen Brothers Seafood Market will be honoring the souls of dead fish."
Today and Saturday, patrons can pick up a map at Casa Tina's, have it stamped at each business and earn a free shot of tequila or a non-alcoholic sangria.
The festival takes place Saturday from 1 to 11 p.m. in Pioneer Park. Enjoy mariachi music from an all-female band from 1 to 4 p.m. La Lucha, a Latin jazz band, plays from 4 to 10 p.m. There will be arts and crafts for sale, traditional foods, and a Dia de los Muertos display of flowers, candles, decorations, and giant puppets called mojigangas.
At 10 p.m., the fiesta concludes with a candlelight procession, the March of the Skeletons.
Participants are encouraged to wear a skeleton costume or mask, or have their face painted as a skull.
"The festival is fun and a beautiful way to remember the people you've lost in your life," Avila said.