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 Decades Project is 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 allow 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 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, 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 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.
Year Four of 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, Year Five of the Decades Project, 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, 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 Zozobra for welcoming the Dark Side! Anyone who danced their heart out to the YMCA song will want to return again to see Zozobra burn!
In 2020, the Decades Project was on hiatus due to the unlikely conjunction of Zozobra and the coronovirus, an unprcedented moment that required its own recognition. And what an acknowledgement that was! Zozobra's head was crowned with red triangles, orange ping-pong balls and silvery shred 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 will celebrate the go-go 1980s era and Zozobra's annual Santa Fe appearance will be summer's front and center moment until he's gone-gone!
The 97th Burning of Zozobra takes place on the Friday before Labor Day, September 3, 2021, in Santa Fe, NM, and you're invited to watch another amazing Zozobra Decades Project come to life!
Our commitment to our traditions is unwavering!