SANTA FE, N.M. — As New Year’s Eve on the Plaza hits its third year, organizers are promising bigger and better additions as the annual event gains its footing.
As 2017 turns into 2018, there should be a fireworks show that won’t disappoint. “We will really up the ante,” said Ray Sandoval, Zozobra’s head honcho who also helped start Santa Fe’s first community New Year’s Eve celebration.
He acknowledged last year’s fireworks, after the countdown to midnight and the rising of the event’s centerpiece Zia symbol, didn’t wow the 6,000-strong audience. The pyrotechnics were intentionally muted, he said.
Organizers were trying to test the waters with what kind of fireworks would be safe to set off in Santa Fe’s dense historic center. Also, some downtown business owners were concerned about fire danger.
While Sandoval’s Kiwanis Club team stages a huge, jaw-dropping fireworks display when Zozobra goes up in flames every September, the New Year’s Eve fireworks downtown last year were low-power and low-heat, and they were engineered against flying too high, he said. Whatever fireworks that did go higher than the rest were caught in a fog that showed up right before midnight.
Now, with a better idea of what’s possible and with better communication with Plaza storefronts, Sandoval and crew are ready to take the fireworks show up several notches, he said.
“They’re much more powerful, much brighter, but they’re still close-proximity fireworks,” said Sandoval.
Other changes this year include the addition of slam poets in between the evening’s musical performances and better equipment that will make the Zia that rises during the midnight countdown go higher.
Sandoval said that instead of rising 30 feet, like it did last year, this year’s Zia will go 50 feet over the crowd, with help from a boom lift.
“It’ll be much more spectacular,” he said.
Just a few weeks ago, the city issued statements boasting about a USA Today reader poll that listed Santa Fe as the No. 2 best place to ring in the new year, beating out cities like New York and Las Vegas, and being topped only by Nashville.
The City Different is already a popular vacation spot during the holiday season, and this new tradition has given new year festivities a central focus that brings both locals and visitors together, said Randy Randall, head of Tourism Santa Fe, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.
Sandoval is estimating 7,000 to 8,000 people will attend, unless a major snowstorm rolls in. Randall said he hopes to see the popularity of New Year’s Eve on the Plaza rival that of the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk on Canyon Road.
“It takes a while for things to gain traction,” said Randall. “It’s why we can’t try things once and move along.”
The free event starts Sunday at 9 p.m. The Kiwanis Club will provide hot chocolate and cookies, and there will be heaters and bonfires throughout the Plaza. Musical acts include longtime local favorites Sol Fire, veteran blues and soul man Alex Maryol and popular cover band Fun Adixx.
Sandoval, by the way, is promising some special guests – their names are very hush-hush for now – to help sing Auld Lang Syne post-midnight.