This weekend, Tucson's annual All Souls Procession will return in its swirl of grief and joy.
Ever year, thousands of people walk together in memory and celebration of loved ones lost, dressed in costume, carrying floats and expressing their loss in unique and individualized ways. This is the 30th annual procession.
Here are three things to know about the procession.
What it is
The All Souls Procession began in 1990 as an expression of one local artist's grief. Grieving the death of her father, Tucson artist Susan Johnson used a performance piece to celebrate his life, according to the procession website. The concept gained momentum as other artists joined in the following years and has ballooned into a community gathering of more than 120,000 people. Today, the nonprofit arts collective Many Mouths One Stomach organizes the procession, with help from volunteers and donations.
Although the procession shares a weekend with Día de los Muertos, it is not directly connected to the Mexican holiday. Instead, the All Souls Procession invites people to bring their own traditions to the gathering — and some of those do coincide with Día de los Muertos.
This year, the procession will begin on Grande Avenue south of Speedway, eventually splitting to wander along the Santa Cruz riverwalk and ultimately make its way toward the Mercado area. The procession concludes with a finale ceremony with a variety of performers, including Tucson Circus Arts, Flam Chen and local musician Steve Roach.
Why people go
At its core, the All Souls Procession honors the loved ones we have lost. It is a time for both grief and celebration. People use the procession to mourn and remember deceased loved ones, lost relationships, transitions, forgone opportunities, pets and whatever else we grieve as humans.
Although many people walk in groups and you will see puppets, floats and art installations, the procession is both communal and individual. Everyone walks for different reasons, bringing with them unique traditions and worldviews, so come prepared to walk with intention and respect.
A large urn leads the procession, and participants are invited to place messages, prayers and memories of loved ones in the urn. The contents are then burned during the finale.
How to participate
Although the All Souls Procession begins at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3, people begin gathering at 4 p.m. You can also join the procession at any point on the route. Keep in mind that if you walk the whole route, you'll be covering about 1.5 miles on both city streets and unpaved, dirt lots. It will get dark, so make sure you bring a flashlight, water and comfortable shoes.
This is not a parade or festival to be watched along the sidelines. Instead, join in. Paint your face. Dress up. Make art to remember the dead. If you want to add messages to the urn, it will be at the MSA Annex, 267 S. Avenida del Convento, until Friday, Nov. 1, at the Procession of Little Angels from 3-7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2 in Armory Park, at the gathering site for the procession and in the front of the procession on Nov. 3. You can also submit messages electronically.
If you do choose to watch, skip the super crowded gathering area and watch somewhere in the middle of the route. The beginning and end of the route get congested.
If you go
What: The 30th All Souls Procession and finale ceremony
When: People can begin gathering at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3. The procession begins at 6 p.m. and the finale begins upon the arrival of the procession, maybe 8:30 or 9 p.m.
Where: The procession begins on Grande Avenue south of Speedway, turns left on St. Mary's Road and right onto Bonita Avenue. The path will diverge, allowing those who choose to, to walk along the river (Note: You'll encounter stairs on this path). Others can continue on to Congress Street. Both routes lead to the finale site, between the Mercado and the river. Do not park at the beginning of the route. Instead, go here for parking suggestions.
More info: Visit allsoulsprocession.org