SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – People from all over the United States and of all ages gathered at Fort Marcy Park in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the 99th annual Burning of Zozobra.

This year’s theme was the 2000s and Zozobra, also known as “Old Man Gloom,” was decorated to look like Lord Voldemort, the villain from the “Harry Potter” movie series. Zozobra was donned in a black robe like Lord Voldemort and had a wand in his right hand.

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Ray Sandoval, Zozobra event chair for the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, came up with the idea to feature Lord Voldemort based on the success “Harry Potter” had at the box office between 2001 and 2011. “He (Zozobra) represents gloom. He has to be a villain,” said Zozobra Press Liaison Lisa Jaramillo.

Burning of Zozobra at Fort Marcy Park in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sept. 1, 2023. (Credit: KRQE Digital Reporter Fallon Fischer)

Zozobra, a 50-foot-tall white marionette, burned alongside papers with individuals’ glooms written on them. Some people opted to burn physical items like two wedding dresses. Jaramillo said two women who wanted to remain anonymous donated the dresses. One woman said she was having a hard time with her divorced husband and was ready to get rid of her wedding dress.

One of two wedding dresses set to be burned at Zozobra. Sept. 1, 2023. (Credit: KRQE Digital Reporter Fallon Fischer)

The other woman was in an abusive marriage for seven years and wanted to burn her dress to show others that they were strong enough to get out of an abusive relationship, according to Jaramillo. The woman also wanted to let people know that there are resources available to help people in abusive relationships.

One of two wedding dresses set to be burned at Zozobra. Sept. 1, 2023. (Credit: KRQE Digital Reporter Fallon Fischer)

Others who attended the event hoped the event would help them move forward in life.

“I’m hoping Zozobra takes away whatever is holding me back,” said Van who traveled to Zozobra for the first time from North Carolina. “I want to be more confident. I want to just worry about things and if I see something, if I see an opportunity, something fun to do, I want to do it.

“The bad people I dealt with, just the negativity really. Old jobs that I didn’t really want to deal with. Sickness,” said Jeramiah Castaneda who attended the event for the second time with his family

One woman hoped the event would help her two children. “I have a son that’s looking for a job and a daughter who is looking for a job. So, I just want to burn down the house and let them find the work that they need to find,” said Terry Moir from Cleveland, Ohio. Moir previously attended the event five years ago but decided to volunteer for the event this year with her sister, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe.

Two people KRQE News 13 spoke to were eager to see Zozobra burn.

“I just wanted to come and enjoy the festivities and see what it is all about,” said Bill Strother from Alamogordo. Strother said it was his first time at the event and that he did not have any gloom. He however looked forward to “seeing it catch on fire and how high the flames go.” Emilo, a 5-year-old boy who attended the event with his family for the first time, also expressed interest in seeing the flames, “I’m so excited to see the Zozobra burn,” he said.