Zozobra organizers plan special ‘Tio Coco’ burn for private crowd

New Mexico News

As Zozobra organizers continue to prepare for their usual summer event, the group is also preparing to do an extra burn for some exclusive guests. 

That upcoming private Zozobra-style event has some wondering if it’s too far of a break from the longtime public Santa Fe tradition. 

Zozobra organizers say they’ll burn Zozobra’s 50-foot cousin, “Tio Coco” in Fort Marcy Park in July to a private audience of people with the National Governor’s Association. 

While they acknowledge the similarities between the planned private burn and the normal Zozobra, organizers say the upcoming private event is a rare exception that has precedent set by the event’s creator. 

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Ray Sandoval, Charman of the Zozobra Organizing Committee with the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe. 

After making the decision with the entire Zozobra organizing committee board last year, Sandoval is now speaking about the upcoming “Tio Coco” burn that was recently revealed to the public. 

Sandoval says the National Governor’s Association requested the event last year as part of a planned series of cultural events to show visiting delegates. 

“We just thought… what an honor for us to be able to do and what a way to be able to share this,” said Sandoval. 

However, some have questioned the upcoming event, saying Zozobra’s creator Will Shuster specifically made the burning for the public for the annual Fiestas event. 

“I definitely understand that perspective,” said Sandoval. 

However, Sandoval also points to Zozobra’s history.  

“We looked back into our history and saw that Zozobra’s creator, Will Shuster actually made an exception,” said Sandoval. 

In December 1940, Shuster was asked by Warner Brothers Studios to burn a Zozobra for the “Santa Fe Trail” movie premiere. 

“It was a private party,” said Sandoval. 

Sandoval says that’s when “Tio Coco” was first created and burnt for the visiting group of Hollywood movie stars and big-wigs. 

“Will Shuster was smart to understand that in a very narrow exception that you could do this to showcase the city of Santa Fe, and that’s why he did that in the 1940s with Tio Coco,” said Sandoval. 

Sandoval says he feels this year’s private “Tio Coco” burning will be in the same spirit. 

“This is an extreme circumstance,” said Sandoval. “We don’t plan on doing any more Tio Coco’s for a very long time.” 

The National Governor’s Association conference is currently slated to run from July 19 through July 21. Zozobra officials don’t know exactly which day they’ll burn Tio Coco, but say it will likely be one of those three conference days. 

Organizers say they’ve been in touch with neighbors about the event and promise it will draw a much smaller crowd than the normal Zozobra. In 2017, 60,000 people watched Zozobra burn inside Fort Marcy park. 

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