Thousands turnout for burning of Zozobra despite rain

SANTA FE (KRQE) – Tens of thousands of people gathered at Fort Marcy Park in Santa Fe Friday night for the annual burning of Zozobra event.

It’s a New Mexico tradition, once a year on the Friday before Labor Day, and it’s a tradition many have celebrated for decades.

It was a bit of a rainy night Friday, but that didn’t stop the crowd from packing the park for the 91st annual event.

KRQE News 13 caught up with some of Zozobra’s biggest fans.

“We’ve been coming for as long as I can remember,” said Pita Martinez-McDonald. She and her family come from all over to meet up for the burning of Zozobra every year.

Pita and her family created their own version of Old Man Gloom, which stands above the massive crowd on the field.

“We made this years and years ago so that all of our family could find us,” Pita explained.

The event is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club. It’s the second year of the “decades project,” so Zozobra was set up in his 1930s theme.

“In the 1930s, Zozobra was eating up a lot of gloom because it was the Great Depression, and so he’s fatter,” explained Matt Horowitz, Zozobra Construction Chairman.

A local tradition, each year people submit their sorrows on pieces of paper that fill the innards of the 50 foot tall marionette.

“We’ve actually got a couple of wedding dresses, we’ve had those over the years,” said Horowitz.

Legal documents, divorce papers, any “gloom” people submit throughout the year, goes into Zozobra. That, and lots of explosives.

“The idea of Zozobra is to vanquish our gloom and bad thoughts for the year,” explained Horowitz. “Whether we mentally do it, or we write down our bad feelings, we give them to Zozobra and Zozobra burns them up, it’s a rebirth, a new year.”

Amid fireworks and traditional dances, Zozobra is set on fire along with the year’s gloom, in a grand display at the end of the night.

“It’s like a New Year’s celebration, burning away the old bad stuff but starting over again,” Frank Gurule told KRQE News 13.

Gurule has been coming to the event his whole life, and loves it. He even has the ink to prove it, with a Zozobra tattoo on his arm.

“I love Zozobra, it’s something I’ve been coming to since I was a kid,” said Gurule.

He’s now extending the tradition to his kids. Zozobra is known as a family event; a one-of-a-kind show you’ll only see in Santa Fe.

The burning of Zozobra also kicks off the Santa Fe Fiestas, which take place the weekend after Labor Day.

Zozobra is the inspiration of artist Will Shuster, who created it as part of the Fiesta events in 1926.

Old Man Gloom Zozobra started out as a six-foot puppet and now weighs about 2,000 lbs. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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