Lake Mead staff, partners honor lost souls as part of Day of the Dead

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Date: October 31, 2012

National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior


For Immediate Release: Oct. 31, 2012
Release No.: 2012-59
Contact: Christie Vanover, (702) 293-8691

Lake Mead staff, partners honor lost souls as part of Day of the Dead

BOULDER CITY, Nev. - Lost souls were remembered on Halloween at Lake Mead National Recreation Area during a cultural interpretation of the Day of the Dead at the park's headquarters.

About 25 employees and volunteers from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Great Basin Institute and Southern Nevada Agency Partnership decorated traditional sugar skulls in honor of loved ones and those who drowned at Lake Mead NRA in 2012.

"You're doing a great job serving our visitors on our public lands," Amanda Rowland, Mohave District interpreter, told the guests, "but people have died here. It's not easy dealing with death."

She said when rangers and other staff reach out to families, staff members don't always take time to think about how the tragedy of death has impacted them.

"Participating in the Day of the Dead is our way to grieve and become part of the process with the families," she said.

Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated Nov. 1 and 2 when friends and families believe that the souls of the dead return to earth to see their families and enjoy the things that made them happy in life.

To celebrate their return, altars with offerings or "ofrenda" are decorated with sugar skulls, candles, flowers and other items that have meaning to the deceased.

Don and Jan Smith, volunteers at Katherine Landing, drove up to Boulder City to learn the meaning of the skulls.

"We've been to Mexico and museums before, and they show the skulls, but they don't really explain about them," Don said, adding that he learned a lot from Rowland's presentation.

Henry Weckesser, a Lake Mead employee in the vegetation branch from Las Vegas, painted his sugar skull all black.

"I had the image of making the base a different color," he said. "It's fun and also very educational to learn about the Day of the Dead traditions. It's very interesting."

The skulls made at Lake Mead will be transported to the Life in Death: Day of the Dead Festival at the Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 S. McLeod Dr., Las Vegas, where for the fifth year, SNAP will have an ofrenda Nov. 1 and 2.

Rowland said last year's ofrenda symbolized deaths on public lands due to the elements. This year's ofrenda will remember those who drowned at Lake Mead NRA in 2012.

"We're always educating people to drink responsibly or wear a life jacket," she said, "but when it's all said and done, it's about a life that was lost. The Day of the Dead is the time to remember the person, not their actions."

She said people have visited the booth in years past and thanked the rangers for taking the time to care.

Although experiences like those are emotional for the families and the staff, Rowland said it "allows us to do our job better by being part of the healing process."

For more information about the Life in Death: Day of the Dead Festival, visit

Download hi-res photos from the event at


Last updated: February 28, 2015

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