This guest post on Zozobra 2016 was written by Judith Moir.
Wonder why they call Santa Fe The City Different? There’s one very compelling 50+ foot reason every autumn to reinforce that moniker: Zozobra (aka Old Man Gloom), the brainchild of artist Will Shuster, one of the Cinco Pintores, a group of artists who congregated in Santa Fe in the sleepy years of the early 20th century.
William Howard Shuster, better known as Shus, came to Santa Fe as did so many, for reason of health, and also like many, stayed on for the lifestyle and the culture, significantly enriching both along the way.
Inspired by the Mexican tradition of burning Judas in effigy, Shus built and burned the first Zozobra (a relative miniature compared to today’s monster), at a 1924 party in his backyard.
Nowadays, the Burning of Zozobra serves as the major fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, which received all rights to and schematics for the event from Shuster in 1964. While Old Man Gloom goes up in smoke on just one night, the planning for and construction of Zozobra is a year-long process that involves hundreds of dedicated volunteers.
In 2014, the Decades Project, a ten-year journey leading to Zozobra’s 100th anniversary in 2024, was begun. In 2014, Zozobra was a roaring 20s bandito, and in 2015, his bald, fat appearance symbolized the 1930s Depression era. This year, Zozobra goes back in time to the 1940s and WW II
Burn your woes
A wooden skeleton covered in yards of muslin, Zozobra is a fully functioning marionette stuffed with thousands of pounds of shredded paper, and all are welcome to add their gloomy thoughts to burn with him. Divorce papers, report cards, dissertations ––you name it, it’s been in there! Find Gloom Boxes at Tourism Santa Fe offices and the Visitor Center at the New Mexico Tourism Office. One Gloom Box stays active until 8pm on the field at Fort Marcy Park where the burning takes place.
Zozozbra festivities kick off with the Fourth Annual ZozoFest 2016 on Saturday, August 27th from 10am to 7pm and Sunday, August 28th from 11am to 5pm at El Museo Cultural located at 555 Camino de la Familia in the Santa Fe Railyard. You’ll see Zozobra’s giant head before it’s joined to his body, and you can add your “glooms” to it. The annual art exhibit is a great time to pick up unique Zozobra art. Zozobra t-shirts and posters sell like hotcakes.
With the 1940s as 2016’s design focus, the Kiwanis Club, Zozobra’s sponsor, has added a special Candlelight Holocaust Memorial on Thursday September 1st at 6pm at Fort Marcy Park, to provide a teachable moment around the profound and far-reaching effects of the era.
The big, and it really is BIG, event takes place on Friday, September 2nd at Fort Marcy Park. Gates open at 3pm. Expect to see the world turn out for Zozobra. Last year, attendance was 48,000 with representation from 49 states (Montana, where were you?) and 4,500 cities around the world.
Official ceremonies begin at 7pm. Tobias Rene, known as the King of New Mexico Music, will headline the entertainment. At 9:30pm (weather permitting) Old Man Gloom commands all eyes, ultimately battling with his eternal foe, the Fire Spirit, summoned by the goodwill of the crowd to seal Zozobra’s fate. And this only-in-Santa-Fe spectacle concludes with an amazing fireworks display!
Find all you need to know about Zozobra 2016 on the official Zozobra 2016 website. Getting tickets in advance is a good idea! Still only $10 per person, with kids 10 and under free, and you won’t have to wait in line to get them.