The City of San Fernando is encouraging families to participate in this year’s virtual Dia de los Muertos Festival by building altars in their homes in memory of loved ones who have passed away and submitting photos of those altars for display in the City’s website.

Some 1,200 people registered last year for the San Fernando Día de los Muertos 5K. It’s a popular event that includes individual runners and families competing in teams of three to run their best time in a course that surrounds San Fernando Recreation Park.

The 5K has  been part of the city’s recreation programs to build healthy families through the Healthy San Fernando initiative. 

The annual event has grown by coupling it with the city’s Dia de los Muertos festival celebrated with traditional altars, entertainment, food and cultural arts vendors.

But this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has made large gatherings of this type too risky, so the upcoming sixth annual festival is going virtual.

“We can’t meet, we can’t gather, so staff got together and brainstormed how to keep people safe and not lose the continuity of activities and services,” said Julian Venegas, director of Recreation and Community Services for City of San Fernando, who hopes people will participate in all the events they have put together for this year’s festival that runs from Oct. 24 through Nov. 2.

5K Race

Yes, the race is still on and the same rules apply for running as an individual or as a 3-member team. The difference this year is that you can participate anytime, anywhere during those 10 days.

“People can run or walk at their leisure, maybe one mile one day, one mile another day and then submit their time,” Venegas explained. “They can run around their block, [locate a] 5k course, they can go to a high school and run around the field.”

The City will not check your time, so it works on an honor system that allows you to post your time.

Venegas added that “there are people who are very competitive with themselves and will want to post their best time,” so City officials will accept the finishing times they submit.

You can register for the 5K on the City’s website ( for the event. The cost is $5 for individuals and $15 for a relay team.

Students under 18 who attend San Fernando schools can register for free but space is limited, so Venegas recommends they register as soon as possible.

Kid’s Exploration Challenge

Children under the age of 10 can participate for free in the Kid’s Exploration Challenge, which Venegas describes as a “treasure hunt.”

All participants have to do is download the Agents of Discovery application on their phone and start the exploration mission that can be complete between Oct. 24 and Nov. 2.

“They download the app and they’ll go to different parts of Recreation Park. Each particular spot will give them a clue or a task, or they can answer a question, and once they solve it they go on to the next one,”Venegas said. “We encourage families to participate together and come out and visit the park and walk around.”

Día de los Muertos Altar Photo Submission

Día de los Muertos is a rooted spiritual and indigenous Mexican cultural tradition that honors loved ones who have passed away.

Altars, ofrendas are built to remember and honor them. Death in the native Mexican culture is accepted as a natural cycle, not to be feared and even playfully mocked.

Each altar is unique, but at its center are photos of the deceased, often holding their favorite foods and drinks and personal objects that were part of their lives. There are also traditional sugar skulls, cempazuchitl flowers (marigolds), copal (incense), pan de muerto (Day of the Dead Mexican sweet bread baked for the occasion), and must contain four essential elements of nature: earth, fire, water and wind.

Clay bowls are filled with fruit or corn that represent earth. Bowls of water are placed to quench the thirst of the souls after their long journey who, the tradition says, visit their families on this day. Candles to symbolize fire and guide those souls back to earth, and papel picado (paper cut into artful designs) represent wind as they move and dance through the air. 

Since the festivities won’t be held at the park this year, the City is encouraging families to continue this tradition by building a home altar for their loved ones.  They can take photos of their altar and share them by submitting them to, including the family name.

All photos will be posted on the City’s website throughout the month of November.

Film Festival Oct. 31-Nov 2

There is a new feature in this year’s event. A film festival that reflects your personal Dia de los Muertos traditions is accepting submissions and is open to anyone who would like to participate.

The San Fernando Community Theater Group (SFCT) will host the film festival and will select the top two films in each age group for screening during the virtual festival. The SFCT panel will also select one film as “Best Film of the Festival.”

Each winner and runner up will receive a modest honorarium and recognition at a future City Council meeting.

Venegas said videos should not be longer than 3-minutes and 12 seconds. The theme is, “What Día de los Muertos means to you.”

“It can be an original film, or you can splice things together, but they need to cite information. If you use something from someone else and if it’s copyrighted, they need to get permission for it,” Venegas said.

The registration for all these events is currently underway. Venegas hopes people participate by remembering their ancestors and loved ones, and honoring an ancient tradition that continues to this day.