Thousands attend Dia de los Muertos festival in Oakland

The annual Dia de los Muertos festival was held in Oakland Sunday. The event was expected to bring 100,000 people to the city's Fruitvale neighborhood to commemorate the Mexican traditions around the Day of the Dead.

Organizers said it's the second largest Dia de los Muertos celebration in the state, with more than 250 food, art and business vendors involved.

"I’m born and raised here in the Fruitvale district. I’ve always admired all the Aztec dancers and everyone who puts on this celebration, so it inspired me to finally be able to bring out my creativity," said Melinda McKenzie, who makes gorgeous headpieces with flowers.

It's a family-friendly event with soccer games, a Lowrider car show and music and dance performances. It's also free and open to all, even people who don't know much about the holiday.  

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"The Dia de los Muertos celebration is a pre-Columbian tradition that dates back hundreds of thousands of years ago, and it is believed in our culture that from October 31 to November 2, the divine gates of heaven open and the souls of our loved ones come and visit us. So we create these beautiful and stunning altares to honor them and guide them into our realm," said Caheri Gutierrez with The Unity Council.  

Nearly 30 large altars were set up along International Boulevard, decked out in marigolds, skull decorations and colorful Mexican banners. There were photos of loved ones who have passed away, along with their favorite food and drink. 

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Many people were there for hours setting up, but said it's worth all the preparation to celebrate with so many people.

"It’s a way to keep the tradition alive. It’s a way to share the traditions with all the community," said Fabian Marquez of American Canyon.  

"The whole purpose of day of the dead is to not forget our loved ones, to keep them in our minds and in our hearts and to be able to talk about them so we don’t forget," said Alex Rodas, who created an altar at his booth for Innovative Pathways, Inc.