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Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Walla Walla Celebrates with Colorful Community Events


This Halloween season, Walla Walla is filled with events, including a festival, a fundraiser and a family tradition.

One of the events is the very first Day of the Dead Festival, which was held at the Gesa Power House Theatre on Friday, Oct. 25 and Saturday, Oct. 26. It featured a Latino concert, an altar display, food trucks and a collaborative art project created by Whitman faculty and students.

Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday that celebrates the lives of those who have passed.


Assistant Professor of Art Nicole Pietrantoni, who teaches a variety of classes, including printmaking and book arts, instigated the Day of the Dead printmaking project.

“It remembers those who have passed. It’s a celebration; it’s not morbid. Because a lot of the imagery in Day of the Dead is skulls and skeletons, it seems like a huge Halloween party, but it actually has very rich religious and spiritual roots,” said Pietrantoni.

Whitman students in Pietrantoni’s classes have contributed huge pieces of art to be made into giant prints using a steamroller. Members of the community were able to make their own smaller prints at the festival and then transfer them onto T-shirts.

“We are making giant relief prints … We run ink across the raised surface and can print this image that the students have carved. My students will be making their prints in the street using a steamroller as the printing press,” said Pietrantoni.

The students creating the prints for this project tried to interpret Day of the Dead imagery and aspects of Mexican culture into their artwork. Senior Catherine Hannan has spent around 25 hours on this project.

“There are flowers, which are often placed on the altars. It’s sort of based on the idea that the dead come back to visit their relatives. So their relatives put out these altars with food and water because they’re hungry and thirsty after their journey. So I just took all of the ideas from the altar and tried to interpret them in more of an abstract way,” said Catherine.

First-year Gillian Gray attended the festival and had a great time.

“There were beautiful and colorful alters to celebrate the dead, as well as fascinating steamrolled prints made by Whitman students. Kids could have their faces painted, decorate sugar skulls and masks and even make their own prints. Everyone seemed to be smiling and having fun,” she said.

Another community event, which takes place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31, is the D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) fundraiser. D.A.R.E. is an international education program in which a uniformed officer visits elementary schools to educate the children on avoiding drugs, gangs and violence.

Vicki Ruley, a crime prevention coordinator and crime victim advocate for the Walla Walla Police Department, has been able to help out with the fundraiser through her department.

“We’re going to have a parade of costumes for the kids and an opportunity to sell pictures. We have a little staging area to get your picture taken. We’re encouraging people who like kids, and who may not see a lot of costumes, to just sit, have dinner and watch what’s going on. It’s a great place to do that,” she said.

Anyone from the community is welcome to come enjoy a $5 spaghetti dinner, which will include scary marinara sauce and spooky salad. All proceeds raised at this Halloween event will go directly to D.A.R.E.

Another event this year, a favorite among Whitman students, is the haunted corn maze. The maze has been operating for 14 years thanks to a group of loyal volunteers, particularly the Filan family.

“My husband recreates the maze every year. It could take him a day or all winter depending on what he wants to do with it. It’s a new design every year,” said Katy Filan, whose husband and father-in-law own the land.

You enter the maze in the pitch dark. In some places, the ground may suddenly drop as if you are on a trampoline. Around most corners, there are people dressed up in a variety of scary costumes, waiting to jump out, scream and possibly follow you.

Fortunately, the costumed volunteers are not allowed to actually touch the maze-goers, and they must tell those in the maze the way out if asked.

First-year Eva Geisse went to the corn maze for the first time this year with other brave students from her floor in Anderson Hall.

“The corn maze was terrifying, to say the least. At one point I was chased by a bloody clown. It was worth it, though, despite the mini heart attacks waiting around every corner. Make sure you take a friend who doesn’t mind you latching on to them the entire time!” said Geisse.

From artwork to spaghetti to clowns, Walla Walla is bringing all the aspects of a wonderful fall season to the community.

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