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Day of the Dead Festival to benefit the Old Tehachapi Cemetery


Art by Monica Soward

The Old Tehachapi Cemetery was established in 1858, just a few years after early settlers came to Williamsburg, now called Old Town. This is not the resting place of the vast land owners, but of the merchants, constables and mail carriers. Everyday people who were the backbone of a budding community found a resting place on a barren acre in Golden Hills. For this reason it is sometimes referred to as the Pioneer Cemetery. No one has been buried there for ninety years and the site is mostly forgotten now.

The Tehachapi Heritage League will sponsor a Day of the Dead Festival at the cemetery to raise awareness and funds for maintenance going forward. Grave markers need to be replaced, grasses need to be cut. The festival will involve local artists, dancers and vendors, with a suggested donation at the gate.

The origins of the Day of the Dead Festival date back at least 2,000 years to the Aztec of ancient Mexico. In modern times the festival has become a brightly colored celebration where elaborate altars are erected to honor loved ones who have passed, and decorated with paper flowers, sugar skulls and wooden crosses. Favorite foods and sweets of the person being remembered are placed on the altar, as well. There is usually music and sometimes dancing. Celebrants often bring blankets and pillows to rest comfortably while friends and family share anecdotes and reminisce. Arts and crafts are on display, where handmade items are especially favored as a time honored tradition.

The Day of the Dead Festival is now celebrated throughout the world, with UNESCO calling it, "an international cultural heritage of humanity". It seems the desire to visit our loved ones who have passed is universal. The past holds as many mysteries as the future and is well worth celebrating!

The festival will be held at the Old Tehachapi Cemetery on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The address is 22000 Lilac St. in Golden Hills.

For information call Harry Rotz at (818) 398-5436 or email


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