The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe is burning a Zozobra-like puppet tonight at Fort Marcy ball field.
You're not invited.
In fact, the city, Kiwanis Club and the National Governors Association would prefer the general public stay away from the park altogether during Friday night's "La Noche de Fuego" event. Originally cloaked in something akin to secrecy, over the past few weeks, it became obvious that the governors had contracted the Kiwanis to burn a Zozobra—or what is now called Tio Coco—at a Friday event for the association's summer conference, which is being held in the city July 19-21.
In an email to some people who live near Fort Marcy, just north of Santa Fe's downtown, the Kiwanis and governors group danced around the Zozobra pre-enactment it acknowledged publicly four weeks earlier, while also passing along information about road closures that will impact anyone who ventures north of the city Friday, including to the national forest and popular Dale Ball city trails along Hyde Park Road.
"Given the small scale of this private event, we are happy to report that necessary preparations will have a minimal impact on our Fort Marcy neighbors," the email said.
Then, as if to ensure a snaggle of confused Santa Feans and tourists, the email told neighbors to "respectfully" keep their mouths shut.
"Due to the nature of the guests, the most critical concern regarding this event is the imperative need for confidentiality. With that in mind, we respectfully request that you do not share with anyone the contents of this informational letter," the letter shared with SFR said.
It also revealed there will be a 40-minute fireworks display beginning at 9 pm.
The letter was branded with the state's "New Mexico True" tourism pitch and signed "NGA-NM." It contained a link to obtain a downloadable security pass and was sent using an email list from the Kiwanis. An email sent by SFR to the return address received no reply.
The city has been doing work at the ball park for weeks. A sign at the recycling drop-off center there that was posted last week said it would be closed through this weekend. There are giant white tents all over the baseball field and front-page newspaper articles and TV stories since last month. The city waived $216,000 in fees and employee overtime costs to host the secret event.
The secret might be out.
What's not out is basic information about how the event will impact life around Santa Fe Friday night, let alone the rest of the conference, which ends with a hootenanny Saturday evening called the "Showdown at Bonanza Creek Ranch."
SFR asked the Police Department, Kiwanis and the city's public information officer about the closures Friday. In a morning phone call, a city spokesman passed along downtown street closures that had been publicized earlier in the week. (Basically, streets around the convention center are closed until 5 pm Saturday evening.)
The spokesman, Public Information Officer Matt Ross, was unaware of the Fort Marcy closures or the email that had been sent to residents, though later confirmed that Murales Road will be closed all day and Bishops Lodge Road will be closed between Paseo de Peralta and Valley Drive from 3-11 pm. He did not respond to a request for further information.
The city's police force wasn't aware of the email to neighborhood residents telling them to keep the closures mum. Santa Fe police are assisting New Mexico State Police with traffic for the event and pitching in as otherwise needed.
"It's not a secret that the governors conference is happening now and what some of the events are for it," SFPD Lt. Michelle Williams told SFR. "Obviously they aren't all open to the public … but I haven't seen that email, so I really can't comment on the reasons for it."
Williams had not been informed about pedestrian access on the sidewalks along Bishops Lodge Road or about any planned closures to the part of Fort Marcy Park south of the ball field, or to the recreation center, which is normally open into the evening on Fridays.
A call to the recreation center by SFR went to a voicemail saying that the facility would be closed all Friday "due to a governors event on the main park." The message apologized for the inconvenience.
Williams said the department did not plan the kind of staffing it would have for a full Zozobra event, when tens of thousands of people pack the park. She referred SFR to state police for further details. An NMSP public information officer was also unaware of the closures and pledged to look into them. The department's helicopter was circling the downtown area at mid-day.
Friday morning, Julia Lapis, who said she and her family have lived off Old Taos Highway for seven years, told SFR she'd received the email and was surprised by its demand for secrecy.
"The purpose of the email was presumably to advise people who live around Fort Marcy Park about what was to happen. I'm pretty confident that they don't have every resident's email. It's a voluntary list for Zozobra. That's how I got on it," Lapis said.
She and her husband work full time and said they'd just seen signs for road closures Friday morning.
"I certainly didn't see any of them [earlier] and I'm maybe a block and a half from Murales," she said.
Lapis said the lack of notice seemed antithetical to getting the word out to anyone who uses the road, especially Bishops Lodge. She and her husband both have a current address on their drivers licenses and didn't apply for security credentials.
Her main concern Friday was for her pets, who recently endured the normal Fourth of July booms and bangs, and would now have to quake through a 40-minute show that will presumably be repeated when Zozobra burns on August 31.
"Admittedly, it's not a big deal for humans," she said, "But for animals, it's a couple months of just being freaked out."
By the time the fireworks die down and pets begin to settle, many of the attendees will be blocks away at the Eldorado Hotel, galavanting around the "Purple Party." The NGA's agenda says the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations will "celebrate bipartisanship" (red and blue make purple) at the Eldorado Hotel, where partygoers can enjoy "craft cocktails and light bites in a stunning setting—replete with custom artwork and beautiful furnishings—that evokes a journey to another time and place."
It was at the same place, the Eldorado Hotel, in 2015 where Governor Susana Martinez held her now-infamous Christmas party. Guests complained of noise and beer bottles being thrown off the balcony of a room rented by one of the governor's staff.
Martinez, a former district attorney, threw her weight around with security staff, a dispatcher on the phone and the police who arrived, insisting through slurred speech that she and her guests were only drinking pizza and Cokes.
SFR asked the governor's office if Martinez planned to attend. A spokesman did not reply.