The Decades Project

What is 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. As keepers of the flame (pun intended), the Kiwanis have made an enduring commitment to this iconic tradition.

With 2024's 100th anniversary approaching, the Club recognized that this momentous occasion needed to be at the forefront of planning. In 2014, with ten years to go until 2024, Event Chair Ray Sandoval came up with the idea of honoring the legacy of this historic Santa Fe event by journeying through each successive decade since Zozobra's first appearance in 1924. And with that in mind, the Decades Project was born.


Put simply, the intention of the Decades Project is to create 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 allow the organizers to delve deeply into Zozobra's look throughout his 90+ 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 gives the Kiwanis a valuable teaching moment to meaningfully honor their mission of serving children.


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 taken to mark 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, Year Three, 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 the 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 1 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.

Year Four of the Decades Project, 2017, landed Zozobra squarely into the Mad Men 1950s! On Friday, September 1, 2017 when the old Daddy-O burned it up in a Father Knows Best hand-crafted cardigan at Fort Marcy Park!

2018, Year Five of the Decades Project, saw Zozobra enveloped in a Summer of Love 1960s feel-good vibe, but being the city's gloomiest character, he made sure he was anything but lovable! After the Fire Spirit vanquished Zozobra to the backdrop of an unforgettably epic lightning storm, the crowd of 62,400 gloom-free witnessed the best fireworks display ever!

In 2019, Year Six of the Decades Project, 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 Zozo for marking the Dark Side! Anyone who danced their heart out to the YMCA song will want to return again to see Zozobra burn!

Year Seven will bring Zozobra smack-dab into the heart of the go-go 1980s era and we'll be partying down right until he's gone-gone!

Attend the 96th Burning of Zozobra on the Friday before Labor Day, September 4, 2020 in Santa Fe, NM, to watch an amazing Year Seven of the Decades Project come to life!

Our commitment to our traditions is unwavering!