Day of the Dead at the Florence Branch

Who says skeletons are scary?  That’s simply not the case in the celebration of Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).  It is as colorful and vibrant as the Calaveras (skulls) that the day is famous for.  I became aware of the holiday last year as I was planning a vacation to Mexico that would coincide with the holiday.  During my travels, the air was pungent with the smell of marigolds and the air ripe with festive mariachi music.  I saw thousands of beautiful calaveras and ofrendas, dressed and danced as the tradition dictates, and had the time of my life doing so.

A combination of the indigenous Aztec tradition of honoring their dead relatives, as well as the Catholic holiday All Soul’s Day.  This festival is celebrated widely throughout Mexico and Latin American, and is spreading into the United States.

Celebrated November first and second, this is the most important holiday of the year.  First, families tend to the graves of deceased loved ones, as graveyards are not managed by the state, as they are here in America.  On November first, the souls of children who passed away prematurely are honored.   This is called the Day of the Innocents, or El Día de los Inocentes.  White orchids and baby’s breath are placed on these graves.  On the first, the Day of the Dead is celebrated in great fashion!   There are parades of people dressed as calacas (skeletons) and calaveras, followed by a gathering in the graveyard with a feast.  They enjoy tamales, a special bread called pan de muertos, music and festivities.  The belief is that the dead would be offended with mourning, so instead, they celebrate!

This year, we are bringing a bit of Mexico to Boone County with our first Day of the Dead program, at the Florence Branch, 7425 US 42, on Thursday, November 2 at 6:30 p.m.  We have plenty of fun in store for you!  In collaboration with the Spanish club and language classes at St. Henry, students are building traditional altars (ofrendas) which will be on display. These altars are constructed using marigolds and sugar cane.  The scent is believed to guide the spirit of the dead back home.  Each ofrenda is dedicated to the life of an individual and decorated with pictures, their favorite foods and drinks, sugar skulls, and trinkets of the dead.  In addition to viewing these altars, we have the following activities planned:

  • Children can decorate a Sugar Skull Magnet to take home with them.
  • Try a bit of Pan de Muerto
  • Listen to the story The Day of the Dead /El Día de los Muertos: A Bilingual Celebration by Bob Barner
  • Experience traditional dancing by the Cincinnati Baila Academy
  • Learn about the traditional Literary Calaveras or calavera poems which are an important expression of Dia de Muertos.

We hope you’ll join us at this cultural celebration on November 2!

Day of the Dead
Florence Branch, 7425 US 42, in Florence
Thursday, November 2 at 6:30 p.m.


Micha O’Connor, Community Events Liaison for Youth Services, doesn’t scare easily- she used to work in a haunted house.  She grew up reading Goosebumps, Scary Stories to tell in the Dark, and watching horror movies with her friends.


History and Hauntings in Sleepy Hollow — Road Trip!

Youth Services Manager Angie Grandstaff loves history, pumpkin beer and all things fall. Recently she visited the ultimate fall spot for a history lover – Sleepy Hollow, New York! She shares her experience with us:

What made you want to go to Sleepy Hollow, New York?
“I have always wanted to go to Sleepy Hollow because I loved the book, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.  I have a childhood friend who also loves the book so we finally made plans to go on this trip together. I bought our tickets for the tours we wanted to see on September 1. If you don’t buy them early they will be all sold out by the time you visit. October is a very busy month.”

What did you do first?
“The First day we walked around the village of Tarrytown, which borders Sleepy Hollow. It was a perfect day for it, the weather was lovely and the trees were starting to change color. That night we did the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery tour. It’s a massive cemetery, about 90 acres. You wouldn’t believe all the famous people who are buried there like Elizabeth Arden, Andrew Carnegie, William Rockefeller and Washington Irving. We did the two-hour tour. We each carried a lantern and it was pitch black, no lights except the lanterns. It was super cool – a great vibe in dark. The earliest tombstone we saw was from the 1800s. Our guide told us stories about the people who were buried there. We went inside a receiving vault that was used back in the day when someone passed away in the winter. Their body was stored there until they could dig a hole for them in the spring. Some of the scenes from House of Dark Shadows were filmed at the receiving vault. There were some pictures from the movie inside the vault.”

Did you see any ghosts while on the cemetery tour?
“I didn’t see any ghosts, but someone asked our tour guide what was the scariest thing she ever saw in the cemetery and she told us she saw two green eyes one time. They turned out to belong to a deer! The cemetery tour was dangerous though. Honestly, there wasn’t much light… They do let you know that you will be walking over unpaved ground and need to be careful. We also looked at it during the daytime. It had rolling hills, lots of trees, and some fall colors. It was just beautiful!”

What else did you do in Sleepy Hollow?
On the second day we went on the Heroes and Traitors walking tour with the local historical society. They told us stories about local scandals and murders. It was fascinating hearing about Benedict Arnold. He was at West Point — 20 miles away and his downfall occurred because a British spy carrying papers was caught in Sleepy Hollow. There is a statue commemorating the Tarrytown men who caught him. I was surprised by all the stuff about Benedict Arnold. I didn’t realize that it all went down right there…that the history happened right where I was standing!

We also went to Lyndhurst Mansion, which is where Jay Gould lived. He made his money in railroads and was one of the robber barons – the late 1800s businessmen who were shady and made tons of money and didn’t pay taxes. Lyndhurst sits right on the Hudson River. It’s a Gothic mansion and it is gorgeous. They had it decorated for Halloween and there were some really creepy ghosts hanging from trees. Parts of the Dark Shadows movie were filmed there.

Another awesome thing we saw was The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze on the grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor. They had 8,000 hand-carved pumpkins. We walked through it at night and it was so cool. They were all lit up. There was one that was the statue of liberty.

We went on a Hudson River valley boat cruise and saw West Point off in the distance. The Hudson Highlands were absolutely beautiful and we saw lots of huge gorgeous homes…”

What was one of the best moments of your trip?
If I have to pick just one, it would be seeing the Headless Horseman. We hoped to see him the whole time we were there so we were glad when we finally did! We saw him on the Horseman’s hollow tour at Philipsburg manor. We were walking and hearing stories and then all of a sudden we saw him! I couldn’t tell if he was on a real horse, but they had special lights on him and the manor was behind him. We really enjoyed touring the Philipsburg Manor grounds. The land was originally owned by a Dutch Family. They founded the Old Dutch Church in the late 1600s and we got to go inside it. It was very primitive – made of stone with one room and some pews. It’s only used for Christmas services now. Frederick Philipse bought the land from the Dutch and at one time he owned all of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. He was a loyalist so he lost everything after the Revolutionary War.

What was the scariest moment of your trip?
The Haunted Trail Tour at Horseman’s Hollow. People jump out at you and there were lots of sound effects.

Did you find any sights or activities a bit off the beaten track?
When we were driving through the Peekskill area, we drove through Bear Mountain. We didn’t know where we were going. We were on a winding road in the Hudson River valley along the side of a mountain and cliffs were right next to us. There was a gorgeous view and a little place you could pull over to stop and take pictures. It was unexpected and kind of off the beaten path.

What advice would give someone planning a trip to Sleepy Hollow?
It was very busy while we were there because we went in October. There was a lot of traffic and parking was difficult, though we lucked out.  Buy your tickets early and get everywhere early!

Would you revisit?
Yes!!! I love the fall – it’s my favorite time of the year and I just loved the history! I didn’t get to tour Rockefeller Estate, Philipsburg Manor or hear Irving’s Legend inside the Old Dutch Church. There are lots of things I would love to do that I didn’t get to do this time and some things that I’d like to do again. It was cloudy and I really liked the atmosphere and the creepy vibe. I loved Sleepy Hollow and had so much fun on this trip. Yes, I want to go again!