97th Burning of Zozobra kicked off in Santa Fe

New Mexico News

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Old Man Gloom is no more, at least for another year. Close to 10,000 people watched from Fort Marcy Park in Santa Fe Friday night. This year’s theme is all about the 1980s and Old Man Gloom didn’t disappoint, dressed straight out of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video but now all that remains are smoke and ash.

Old Man Gloom is vanquished for another year. After a year away because of the pandemic, people were ready with extra woes to fill his belly with their worst moments, from divorce papers to photographs and even a wedding dress. One woman has been coming out to see Zozobra for decades. This year, she even got a new generation to come out.

“I’m a native Santa Fean. I’ve been here for years. Years and generations our family has been here,” said Linda. “I think it’s just all the excitement building up to it. I brought my grandchildren here earlier so they could see them put him up and they were so excited.”

One of the creators behind this year’s Zozobra started with the team as a ‘gloomie’ years ago. “Since then, I started working with the construction crew and they asked me in 2016 to take charge and learn a little bit and from there, my duties have just exploded,” said Luke Tompson, Zozobra ‘padawan.’

All attendees had to show proof that they’re fully vaccinated or show negative COVID-19 test results taken within 72 hours of the event. Children who are not vaccinated were asked to wear masks. For many, this was the first big event they’ve been to since the pandemic started.

With celebratory fireworks filling the night sky, Old Man Gloom is now just a smoking pile of embers until the next year’s fails and faults cause him to rise one again.

When Zozobra returns next year for the 98th burning, he’ll take on the 1990s, so maybe we’ll see him dressed up like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or someone from the boy band era. If you’re wondering how Zozobra gets into place, he gets some help from line crews with PNM.


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Meanwhile, Will Shuster’s first Zozobra back in 1924, was just six feet tall. This year’s giant is a 50-foot marionette weighing about 2,000 pounds and is made up of everything from wood and wire to pizza pans and duct tape.

There’s live entertainment and you can catch a 1980s dance party on ZTV playing your favorite music videos from that decade. Then weather permitting, lights out will start around 9:30 p.m. as Zozobra prepares to go up in flames. Road closures are already in effect around the area so if you’re planning to drive this way, take an alternate route.

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