ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - As many as 30,000 tunred out in Santa Fe for the burning of Zozobra.
That's about twice as many people as last year when the start to Fiesta de Santa Fe came under fire from a frustrated crowd.
The gates opened Thursday at 3 p.m. for the 89th burning of Old Man Gloom and ticket pre-sales were the strongest they've ever been, leading organizers to believe there could be a big crowd to watch Zozobra – and their gloom – burn away.
Local artist Will Schuster created the Zozobra in 1924.
In the years since, Old Man Gloom has grown from a 6-foot puppet to this year's massive effigy standing more than 50 feet tall.
Stuffed inside the marionette are bad memories, everything from divorce papers to tax returns.
Zozobra is a family tradition for many who come to watch the burning and even participate in the ceremony.
“It's part of the culture and the history,” said Lara Barela who brought her children to the event Thursday. “It starts off the Fiesta weekend so it's just been tradition that we come and enjoy the event.”
Organizers are left with the task of reassuring critics that this is still a family-friendly event.
They're hoping to incinerate the gloom of last year's event with a slew of changes. After last year's Zozobra, many complained ticket prices were too steep at $20 dollars. They also said the lines were too long and that the burning of Old Man Gloom after 10 p.m. was way too late for a school night.
Ticket prices dropped to $10 dollars this year with kids younger than 10 getting in free. There will also be 10 entrances this year instead of one.
“We actually have the privilege of actually hosting this event, but this event belongs to Santa Fe. It belongs to New Mexico,” said organizer Ray Sandoval. “Come back, take your culture. We really want you to be a part of this. This is going to be a history-making Zozobra.”
Zozobra grew one inch this year, standing at 50 feet and two inches tall. Unlike last year, his hair color will remain a secret until the festival begins.
It's a tradition brought back by popular demand.
“We want the crowd to really have a fun time and really enjoy themselves. So we've done everything we possibly can to be better hosts," Sandoval said.
Zozobra is hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe. And while ticket sales help pay for the event, that money also goes toward college scholarships and local youth projects.
If all goes to plan, the ceremony should start at 7 p.m. Thursday and the burning of Old Man Gloom should happen around 9.
This year, people from around the world were invited to send in their worries online.
More than 2,800 submissions came in from 47 states and 22 countries. Those worries were printed and stuffed into Old Man Gloom.
Those attending the event can park in designated areas about 15 minutes away from the event for $5 and take a free shuttle to the festivities. Shuttles are scheduled to run every 20 minutes.
Organizers also are coordinating with the New Mexico Rail Runner, so that people coming from Albuquerque and train stops further south will be guaranteed a ride home.
Those who did not buy tickets online yet can buy them at the gates of the festival. Participants can also visit burnzozobra.com to see an event map with all of the various parking spots.
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