As autumn paints the Santa Fe landscape in rich golden hues, we locals welcome the green chile harvest and indulge in a colorful celebration of our centuries-old heritage. When Santa Feans hear shouts of “¡Que Viva!” ringing through the streets, it's clear that Fiesta de Santa Fe, the citywide extravaganza dedicated to Santa Fe’s history and culture, has returned. Combine this 301-year-old party with new customs like a mouth-watering green chile cheeseburger smackdown, and you’ll see that a visit during ¡Viva! Santa Fe is a fall fantasy come to life.

¡Viva! Santa Fe loosely translated means “Long Live Santa Fe” or “Living Santa Fe,” but this year the term encompasses an updated City Different experience, packed with both traditional autumn events and new festivities. Gather your friends and family, make your reservations, and get ready to party under Santa Fe’s magnificent skies for 10 memorably unique days August 30 to September 8.

Flags and coats of arms are mounted on the Plaza during Fiesta to commemorate the peaceful reoccupation of Santa Fe by Don Diego de Vargas.

History and Culture Come Alive at Fiesta de Santa Fe

As the country’s oldest continuous community celebration, Fiesta de Santa Fe has commemorated the peaceful 1692 reoccupation of the city by Don Diego de Vargas, after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, since 1712.

The official opening of Fiesta takes place Friday, September 6, at 6 a.m., with the Pregón de la Fiesta, when the faithful gather at Rosario Chapel to hear the Mayor of Santa Fe issue a formal proclamation declaring the start of these annual festivities. Community leaders welcome the public on the Plaza at noon, then at 2 p.m. you can witness a re-enactment of the triumphant 1692 entry of the Conquistadors.

Don Diego and his Cuadrilla triumphantly ride into town every year during Fiesta.

The Desfile de Los Ninos, the annual Pet Parade, takes place Saturday, September 7, at 9 a.m. This is a truly uniquely Santa Fe event, where you can coo over ever-so-patient family pets dressed as conquistadors or admire a happy family of Smurfs.

Pets and Smurfs at the pet parade have a happy case of the Blues.

Sunday, September 8, brings the Desfile de la Gente, colloquially referred to as the Historical/Hysterical Parade. This lively, local, anything-goes conglomeration of floats mixes local high school bands, mariachis, and sports teams with queens and politicians of every stripe, all of whom eventually end up on the Plaza.

All you need is LOVE to enjoy the Hysterical/Historical Fiesta Parade.

The official closing of Fiesta takes place at 5:15 p.m. on the Plaza and is followed by 7 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral and a solemn candle-lit procession through the historic downtown, ending at the Cross of the Martyrs, where small vigil bonfires known as luminarias flicker in the dark.

Given that Fiesta actually takes all year for the Fiesta Council to plan, a celebration this large means a lot is happening, so we encourage advance scheduling to make your Fiesta experience complete.

Let Zozobra Take the Heat Off Your Worries

What is that crazy name you’ve been hearing? Pre-dating Nevada’s Burning Man by decades, Zozobra, familiarly known as Old Man Gloom, is Santa Fe’s prescription for recovering from the year’s disappointments. Zozobra was created in 1924 by artist Will Shuster and is now lovingly re-created each year by the Kiwanis Club.

This 50-foot-tall puppet is stuffed with bits of paper bearing all manner of gloomy thoughts and goes up in smoke at an annual burning in Fort Marcy Park. Though Fiesta’s official start date is Friday, September 6, the September 5 conflagration on Thursday night tells the locals it’s on! Entertainment on the field begins at 3 p.m., but the burning and subsequent fireworks display take place well after dark. Note that this is NOT for agoraphobics, the faint of heart, or the youngest children.

Check out this vintage photo of Old Man Gloom and his creator, Will Shuster, in 1954.

Santa Feans like me can’t get enough of Zozobra, and there’s a new event honoring our sacrificial lamb Friday, August 30, from 3 to 10 p.m. when ZozoFest pulls into the Santa Fe Railyard. The annual Zozobra poster will be unveiled and signed by the artist, and an exhibit of all things Zozo opens to the public. You can stuff your worries right into Zozobra and gaze in awe at his massive head. I feel better already! This family-friendly Friday has live entertainment under the water tower and a screening of "Rise of the Guardians" at the performance green, with a fun fair on Saturday, August 31, 11a.m. – 6 p.m.

And though you might think Old Man Gloom would be feeling old and out of touch at 89, Zozobra has gone digital this year! Submit your worries online, until September 5, and watch them burn on the Burning of the Virtual Zozobra at the ¡Viva! Santa website.

Santa Fe’s modern-day Zozobra evokes the original. Photo Credit: Albuquerque Journal

Cheeseburger Smackdown Arrives at the Green Chile Harvest Festival

Roasting and eating the green chile that infuses our world-renowned cuisine — and delights the palates of foodies everywhere — is always on our autumn calendar. But this year, Santa Fe welcomes the First Annual Green Chile Harvest Festival September 7, with the finale of Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown as its centerpiece. The green chile harvest is eagerly anticipated, so an official celebration at the renowned Santa Fe Farmers Market is an idea whose time has come. Although it’s a maiden voyage for this event, it’s sure to sail back next year once we get a taste of the excitement.

Plan to be a People’s Taster at the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown.

This tasty challenge kicked off in July when Santa Fe chefs were invited to submit their best green chile cheeseburger for online voting by locals and visitors, and boy, was the competition fierce! Now the top six burgers, along with a Lucky 7 additional burger to be announced later this month, will tantalize at the Smackdown. A panel of judges will crown the king of cheeseburgers the Reigning Chomp. If you want to be a judge for the People’s Taste Burger, you’ll be able to buy tickets at the event, so stay tuned to Facebook for news and make sure your taste buds are tuned to green chile.

Live It Up at ¡Viva! Santa Fe

Autumn is a time for creating the memories that carry us through the long winter ahead. We locals look forward to revisiting the treasures of our historic and cultural traditions, and we welcome you to join us on this colorful journey of celebration. Experience the magic of Santa Fe this fall and take part of one of the liveliest long-standing parties around. ¡Viva! Santa Fe – ¡Que Viva!