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Long-time Producer of Zozobra Burning Steps Down After Complaints

SANTA FE, N.M. — Ray Valdez, who has overseen the burning of Old Man Gloom for the past 22 years, has stepped down from the position after a host of complaints followed this month’s event.

The Santa Fe Kiwanis Club, which puts on the event as a fundraiser, accepted his resignation on Saturday, according to Ray Sandoval, who will take over Valdez’s duties. The position is not paid.

A Rio Rancho attorney, Sandoval said Tuesday he will move to Santa Fe soon, where he plans to meet with city officials and members of the community who raised concerns about the traditional burning of Zozobra. The same-day ticket price of $20 drew complaints this year, as well as the fact that strollers were not allowed on the grounds and not enough traditional music was provided. In short, many people said they no longer felt it was a community event directed toward local residents, but a production put on for visitors.

“We want to tell the public we heard their concerns and want to make the event the best it possibly can be,” Sandoval said.

When contacted by phone, Valdez first declined to comment, but then said that he has been “slandered, insulted and defamed” and that “I’m very proud of having produced Will Shuster’s Zozobra for the last 22 years.”