What was The Decades Project?
In 1964, the creator of Zozobra, Santa Fe artist Will Shuster, granted the exclusive rights to the Burning of Zozobra to the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe. Since that time, as keepers of the flame (pun intended), the Kiwanis have made an enduring commitment to this iconic tradition.
From 2014 to 2023, Zozobra revisited his past through the Zozobra Decades Project, a ten-year journey through each successive decade of Zozobra’s existence.
Put simply, the Decades Project focused on creating a comprehensive and cohesive design that blends the style and substance of each era in Zozobra’s life and demise. The Club’s extensive archives allowed organizers to delve deeply into Zozobra’s look throughout the previous 99 years, matching the overall design of all the elements –– from his face and attire to the artifacts and music –– with the history and events of each era. Each year of the Decades Project has its own set of collectible souvenirs to mark the occasion. And most important of all, the Project annually gave the Kiwanis a valuable teaching moment to meaningfully honor their mission of helping children learn about their history.
In 2014, Year One of the Decades Project, Zozobra went way back to the Roaring 1920s, with a handlebar mustache and a maroon waistband, his hands tied behind his back to demonstrate his outlaw status. Attendees got right into the spirit, and black mustachios reigned supreme on the field and in the many photographs that marked the event.
Year Two, 2015, saw Old Man Gloom deeply invested in the Depression Era. Designed in grayscale to mirror the struggles of the era, he was bald and fat around the middle, thanks to the extreme gloom he spread throughout the 1930s. He never quit plying his evil machinations, even trying –– unsuccessfully –– to rain out the event.
2016 brought Zozobra into the 1940s WW2 era, rich in history and cultural significance for Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the world at large.
In recognition of the profound and far-reaching consequences of that era, the Kiwanis partnered with the Santa Fe Jewish Center/Chabad by adding a special Candlelight Holocaust Memorial, which took place at Fort Marcy Park on Thursday, September 1, 2016. September 1st was the 77th anniversary of the start of WWII and the 75th anniversary of the date when the Jewish population of Germany was ordered to wear a yellow Star of David, and gays, gypsies and outsiders were similarly marked and publicly shamed.
The Decades Project 2017 landed Zozobra squarely into the Mad Men 1950s! On Friday, September 1, 2017, the old Daddy-O burned it up at Fort Marcy Park in a hand-crafted “Father Knows Worst” cardigan!
2018 saw Zozobra immersed in a Summer of Love 1960s feel-good vibe, but being the city’s gloomiest malcontent, he made sure he was anything but lovable! After the Fire Spirit vanquished Zozobra to the backdrop of an unforgettably epic lightning storm, the gloom-free crowd of 62,400 witnessed an amazing fireworks display!
In 2019, Zozobra visited the 1970s, with so much to share. The disco era, the heart of the counterculture, the Brady Bunch, and of course, the first Star Wars movie –– who better than Zozobra for welcoming the Dark Side? Anyone who danced their heart out to the YMCA song will want to return again and again to see Zozobra burn!
In 2020, the Decades Project experienced the unlikely conjunction of Zozobra and the coronavirus, an unprecedented moment that required specific recognition. And what an acknowledgment that was! Zozobra’s head was crowned with red triangles, orange ping-pong balls, and silvery shreds so that his hair represented COVID-19, and his buttons were marked 2020 for the unhappy year that he savored. And how about those murder hornet cufflinks? Zozobra 2020 was one for the record books!
In 2021, the Zozobra Decades Project celebrated the go-go 1980s era and Zozobra’s annual Santa Fe appearance was summer’s hottest front-and-center moment with an 80s costume contest and a live DJ spinning the best of the 80s “ZTV” music videos on three giant screens. Talk about a great dance party!
Zozobra 2022 was dressed in hella-good 90s style, with stylish maroon suspenders and his own Z belt buckle. That wallet chain made sure that no one tried to mess with him. And what about those tattoos?!?!? That was an awesome first!!!
Zozobra 2023 was a celebration of the 2000s and 2010s, marking the eternal struggle between good and evil by touching on the magic and wonder that thrilled movie-goers and book-lovers in that era, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord the Rings trilogy and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories. It was an epic way to end the ten-year Decades Project!
Now, with the conclusion of the fun and festive Zozobra Decades Project, The 100th Burning of Zozobra will present a once-in-a-century celebration taking place on the Friday before Labor Day, Friday, August 30, 2024, in Santa Fe, NM! This is one you don’t want to miss!
Our commitment to our historic traditions is unwavering!