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SF Kiwanis Club: Watch Zozobra burn in person

SANTA FE, N.M. — If you want to avoid the crowds and watch Zozobra burn from the comfort of your laptop or TV screen, you’ll have to wait a day longer this year.

The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe has decided against broadcasting the traditional Sept. 5 torching live, Zozobra Event Committee Chair Ray Sandoval said on Tuesday. The club has produced the event for 89 years.

“It’s a sense of community,” Sandoval said. “That sense of community is not going to come from a computer screen. We really want people to come out.”

The Kiwanis are working with Santa Fe Community Television —— their broadcasting partners for more than 20 years —— to delay the channel 16 live broadcast 24 hours. If the city turns the Kiwanis down, they will produce their own delayed broadcast on the club’s website, Sandoval said.

“We just don’t feel it’s fair for those who come out and pay” that others can watch the event for free, he added.

“We’ve made changes from the ground up,” Sandoval said. “We want the community to come celebrate with us.”

Last fall, the club was inundated with criticism after the 2012 burning produced long lines and steep admission prices. Adding to a “perfect storm” of problems, high winds produced safety issues and delays of up to two hours for the final immolation. Longtime Zozobra producer Ray Valdez stepped down amid the uproar.

In January, the group slashed prices from $20 to $10, with children 10 and younger getting in free. Traditionalists will see a return to Shuster’s original 1960s script, where the crowd breaks into the “Fiesta” song when Zozobra expires. The club plans to move Zozobra’s once-secret building spot into El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, where children can help stuff the giant beast the week before the event in the First Annual Zozofest on Aug. 30-31. Adults will be able to place their “glooms” into the creature’s limp body. Organizers will place Old Man Gloom’s lifeless head in the back of the gallery, where both adults and children can pose for pictures à la Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

“People tell us it’s a hassle to go down there,” Sandoval said of the burning at Fort Marcy Ballpark. The club has worked with police and added shuttle buses to help with the congestion, he said.

“People tell us, ‘I don’t go to Zozobra; it’s too dangerous,'” he added.

The infamous 1997 shooting took place on the Plaza, not inside Fort Marcy.

“We have never had a major emergency —— no violence,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said he has already fielded some complaints about the broadcast change, but that most of the comments have been positive.

“We’ve heard this is a good thing in our Internet world if people want an event for the community,” he said.

The Fiesta commemorates Don Diego de Vargas’ 1693 re-entry into Santa Fe. Dating to 1712, the event is the oldest continuous community celebration in the U.S.

Zozobra proceeds fund grants and scholarships. Since the Kiwanis club has produced the event, starting in 1963, it has donated more than $500,000 in college scholarships to more than 175 students and, in a typical year, provided $40,000 in additional funding to 25 or more local nonprofit groups serving children.

“Everybody knows how Zozobra will end,” Sandoval said. “Everybody knew how the Titanic ended. But people still came to the movie. So come out and watch the show.”