Labor Day Fun in Santa Fe

Things to do in Santa Fe on Labor Day Weekend

By Lynn Cline

Summer may be winding down with the Labor Day weekend, but not before we gather for Zozobra, one of Santa Fe's hottest events. His annual demise kicks off the country's longest continuously running celebration, so get ready to hear cries of ¡Que Viva La Fiesta! Maybe you'd rather hear renowned mariachi music-makers, or discover new artists in a city-wide music celebration. Or you could take the whole family to a children's fiesta that's loaded with fun. So if you're starting to feel those "I-can't-believe-summer's-over" blues, take heart. With all that's happening this Labor Day weekend across the city, you'll hardly notice that summer is making way for fall.

Burn Him!

Zozobra will meet his match for the 95th time this Friday, August 30, taking all of our gloom and doom from the last year with him. And while the 55-foot tall marionette may moan and groan in protest as thousands cheer his demise from the Fort Marcy Park field, he never wins. He's the victim of a ritual burning that began in 1924, when Santa Fe artist Will Shuster created the first Zozobra for a Fiesta de Santa Fe party with his artist and writer pals in his back yard. He'd been inspired by the Holy Week celebrations he'd witnessed in Mexico, where Yaqui Indians burned an effigy of Judas stuffed with firecrackers, after parading it around their village on a donkey. Shuster and friends named their marionette Zozobra, which means "the gloomy one," in Spanish, according to the Zozobra website. In 1964, Shuster turned his Zozobra event over to the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, which has made sure the riotous Burning of Zozobra takes place every year on the Friday before Labor Day, kicking off Fiesta de Santa Fe.

On burning day, there's little gloom to be found on the Fort Marcy Park field. The gates open at 4:30 pm, and a lively crowd of thousands pours in, greeting old friends and neighbors and making new ones, as a variety of bands and musicians entertains from the stage. This year's schedule includes visits from Fiesta royalty, Mayor Alan Webber and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham along there's a Beach Ball Song and Toss. But the real star of the evening doesn't take front and center stage until dark, when a parade of Gloomies—children dressed as ghosts, under Zozobra's spell of despair—makes an appearance, and the excitement in the crowd begins to grow. By the time Zozobra's old enemy the Fire Spirit takes him on, dancing with blazing torches, the crowd is cheering and jeering, chanting "Burn him, burn him." The Fire Spirit sets Zozobra alight and the marionette erupts in flames and smoke, burning into a pile of ash and fireworks jubilantly light up the sky. Another year's gloom is gone, vanished in smoke and fire, and the crowd roars with happiness. It's time to let the Fiesta de Santa Fe begin!

¡Que Viva!

The 307th Fiesta de Santa Fe takes place August 31 through September 8 with an array of festivities commemorating the 1692 reoccupation of the City of Holy Faith, led by Don Diego De Vargas after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The celebration includes religious ceremonies, live music and dancing, an art market, a pet parade and other events. In addition to the Burning of Zozobra, the Labor Day weekend festivities include the Fiesta Fine Arts and Crafts Market on the Plaza, a treasure trove of tented booths where artists sell their hand-crafted jewelry, fashion, hand-blown glass, paintings and photography and so much more. This open-air market, held Saturday, August 31 through Monday, September 2, from 9 am to 5 pm, offers the opportunity to meet the artists and discover the stories behind their work. You'll also enjoy live entertainment and traditional New Mexico food. 

Celebrate the sights and sounds of classic and contemporary mariachi music at the Mariachi Extravaganza de Santa Fe, a colorful and vibrant performance presented by Fiesta de Santa Fe at the Santa Fe Opera on Saturday, August 31, from 7:30 to 10 pm. Against a dramatic backdrop of a famous Santa Fe' sunset you'll take in the joyous sounds of renowned and rising mariachi artists including Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar, Mariachi Sonidos del Monte, Mariachi Calor, and Ballet Folklórico de Los Ángeles. Don't forget to bring all your fixings for a traditional tailgate in the opera parking lot.

Fiesta de los Niños

Find fun for the young and the young at heart this Labor Day weekend during Fiesta de los Niños at El Rancho de las Golondrinas this Saturday and Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm. The premier living history museum has packed the schedule with exciting entertainment, from magic shows and circus acts to flamenco dancers, storytelling and a visit with raptors and reptiles. Bring the kids (age 12 and under get in for free) but you don't have to be a kid to be enthralled by Wise Fool New Mexico Circus & Acrobats, Folkorico del Valle Youth Dancers, Entreflamenco Youth Dancers, Professor Cheesecurdle's Magic Show and the New Mexico Wildlife Center. Fiesta-goers also can engage in tortilla making, mask making, face painting, leather and tin stamping and many other appealing activities.

The Sounds of Music

Treat your ears to inspiring sounds this Labor Day weekend during the final days of the 2nd Annual Santa Fe Music Week, which started August 23 and ends September 2. The schedule showcases national and local artists performing in venues all around the city. Tonight, for instance, you could savor the sounds of Half Broke Horses playing Honkey Tonk and Americana music at Cava Lounge at 6 pm, or enjoy New Mexico-inspired music by Gitano in the same venue on August 31.  

On Thursday, August 29, catch rising New Mexico country star Sim Balkey in a free concert on the Plaza, or check out American musical legend Bill Hearne and his nephew Michael Hearne in concert at The Lensic on Thursday, August 29 at 7:30 pm. The evening includes a screening of "New Mexico Rain," a documentary about Bill and Bonnie Hearne. Or head to the Inn and Spa at Loretto's Living Room venue and listen to singer/songwriter Matt Malone at 7 pm. Stop by on August 30 to hear folk, rock and pop musician Michael Burke or on August 31 for a performance by master classical guitarist Roberto Gonzales.

Fantastic Negrito and his inspiring brew of rock, funk, blues and R&B will entertain crowds at the Railyard Plaza at 7 pm on August 31. His most recent release, "Please Don't Be Dead," picked up a Grammy this year for Best Contemporary Blues Album. The singer/songwriter also won NPR 'sTiny Desk Contest and has toured the world, playing with Solange, Chris Cornell, Sturgil Simpson and others.  Albuquerque native Ron Crowder opens the show.