It has long been rumored that the 106-year-old national landmark Looff Hippodrome (aka Merry Go-Round Building) on the Santa Monica Pier has been visited by spirits. While that may or may not actually be true, there are guaranteed to be spirits circling among the building’s carousel horses on November 1st and 2nd during the Pier’s two-day celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

Assembled in 1922 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, the Santa Monica Pier’s beloved carousel and its 44 hand-carved wooden horses are celebrating their 100th birthday this year. For many generations those horses have provided timeless memories, as has the rest of the Santa Monica Pier. Those memories, as well as the people whom they belong to, will be honored in the Pier’s two-day Dia de los Muertos festival.

Artists Daniel Alonzo and Sylvia Sanchez provide the vision for this year’s Dia de los Muertos at the Pier. For the past many years, the duo has assembled award winning altars at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Daniel Alonzo is a second-generation Santa Monica Native and highly respected muralist, best known for his “Whale of a Mural” that adorns the south side wall of the underpass at Santa Monica’s 4th Street and Ocean Park Boulevard. Sylvia Sanchez introduced the magic of her spectacular altars to the Pier in 2021, giving a special nod to the memories of people who have had a special connection to the Santa Monica Pier, and to Santa Monica, throughout its 113-year history.

“This year in the Merry Go-Round we will have a small altar dedicated to Nick Gabaldon, the first Mexican/African American surfer whom I had heard stories of ever since I was a young boy,” notes Daniel Alonzo, “and we will have other altars to honor the Marquez and Reyes families, as well as Arcadia Bandini, who all gifted so much to Santa Monica and its origins.”

“Dia de los Muertos is a two-day celebration of remembrance, honor, respect, joy and beauty,” according to Sylvia Sanchez, “We are not mourning death, we are celebrating life! The first day, November 1, is Dia de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels), when we celebrate departed infants and children, who are always so eager and run ahead of the adults before the main event on November 2.”

The Pier is also offering a very special way for everyone to honor their deceased loved ones with Letters of Life, an art installation in which members of the community may share their favorite Pier memories, photographs and anecdotes of family and friends who have passed. These memories will decorate our space via our digital murals that surround the historic 100-year-old Carousel and will be displayed over the course of our celebration. And look for Pacific Park’s iconic Ferris wheel, which will be specially themed for the holiday.

Tuesday, November 1st | 5:00pm – 9:00pm | Merry Go-Round Building. Dia de los Angelitos – Guests can stroll through the Merry Go-Round building to view several art installations, including the transformation of the 100-year-old Carousel, which will be draped in marigolds and papel picado! Enjoy the traditional dance of Ballet Folklorico brought to you by local Santa Monica business, Cabeza de Vaca Cultural School, starting at 6 pm.

Wednesday, November 2nd | 5:30pm – 9:30pm Dia de los Muertos – Guests will experience several art installations and live performances like ballet folklorico by Grupo La Rosa by Maria A Villalobos & Parents, and be serenaded by a Mariachi group during this celebration. The event of reflection and remembrance will start with a blessing led by the indigenous Tongva community at the far West End of the Pier, face painting hosted by our partner Mariasol and Ms. Brown’s Artistry, followed by a vibrant and colorful procession led by Aztec dancers from the west end to the Merry Go-Round building. We encourage you to dress up in your favorite Día de los Muertos fashion to take part in our community walking procession. Tamales provided at The Albright and hot cocoa by Soda Jerks.

For more information on the Santa Monica Pier’s Dia de los Muertos celebration, please visit https://www.santamonicapier.org/diadelosmuertos

Jim Harris | Executive Director