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Getting ready to feel the burn with Zozofest 2019

Zozofest 2019 takes place next weekend at the Santa Fe Place mall.

SANTA FE, N.M. — For many people, the 1970s slipped by like a whirlwind, with the end of the Vietnam War, the demise of the Nixon presidency due to Watergate and the advent of disco.

In the ongoing Decades Project celebrating Zozobra’s march to its 100th birthday, this year’s version of Old Man Gloom will be dressed in some sort of ’70s get-up.

Exactly what that entails, however, Scott Wiseman declined to say.

But Wiseman, who is the organizer of the annual Zozofest that precedes the torching of the several-stories-high puppet, said everybody can get a sneak preview of the doomed one during the Zozofest and Zozofest Art Show that runs Friday through Aug. 25 at the Santa Fe Place Mall, in the former Sports Authority space.

“This makes the Zozobra event more accessible to the public,” Wiseman said. “It used to be almost a little secret society of people who knew how he was built and nobody could get a sneak preview.”

Giving the community at large a chance to see Zozobra pre-torching has not only created more goodwill for the event, but also heightened the overall excitement and anticipation for the torching.

“We wanted to become more inclusive with the community,” Wiseman said. “We wanted to give the public a chance to see him up close.”

Additionally, Zozofest give folks a chance to get rather personal with the big fella without having to worry about going up in flames themselves.

“They can stuff their glooms right into his dress,” Wiseman said. “We understand that not everybody can go to the Zozobra burning. Maybe it’s a difficult thing to deal with the crowd or tickets. This provides a new way for people to be involved in the Zozobra tradition.”

Zozofest also provides a great way for people to view the latest artwork inspired by Zozobra.

“As far as the art goes, Zozobra has been very inspirational in art in Santa Fe for many decades,” he said. “You can see portrayals of Zozobra everywhere. It’s at Spanish Market and Indian Market. It’s on murals downtown. The whole idea was to bring all this art to one place and celebrate all the Zozobra art in one event.”

Artists whose work will be on display range from talented amateurs to professionals. All of it will have a Zozobra theme and will be for sale, Wisemen said.

Lauren Stutzman has been among those artists for the past three years, but this year she is also taking on a larger role as one of the Zozofest performers.

Stutzman and friend Admiral Grey will be putting on half-day puppet shows Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 25, that portray Zozobra’s life outside of his fateful day of destruction.

“We wanted to explore the ideas of Zozobra in his off time,” she said. “What does Zozobra do the rest of the year? One of the characters included in this show is his mother. We called her Zoberta, so we’ll be looking at the dynamics between him and his mother.”

The play also will include Gloomies puppets and a fire spirit.

“We’re going do kind of a call and response with the audience,” Stutzman said. “Admiral is a very experienced puppeteer and a musician, and she has composed three or four songs to follow our storyline. We’re hoping that there’s a lot of crowd interaction with the puppets. It’s something in the Jim Henson mode of his puppets appealing to little children and adults. So we’d like everybody to get something out of it and it’s not nailed to a one-age audience.”

As for Zozobra himself, he will be there in all of his glory, but some pertinent details will still remain hidden until the big night.

“The big thing is what is his hair color going to be,” Wiseman said. “The head will be there, but it be unpainted, so you will still have to go to the burning to know his hair color. But you get to see some of his outfit, see his manicure and how his nails are painted.”

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