Thousands of people packed into Fort Marcy Park on Friday for Santa Fe’s annual burning of Zozobra. This 94-year-old tradition is a time for the people of Santa Fe to let go of their worries and anxieties by writing them down on pieces of paper that are then packed into the 50-foot-tall marionette to be set ablaze.

“It’s like our new year,” said Kiwanis Club Press Liaison, Lisa Jaramillo. The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe has organized this event since 1964.

Jaramillo described other “glooms” people have stuffed inside the Zozobra ranging from wedding dresses of failed marriages to pathology reports from disease diagnoses.

UNM graduate student and Zozobra attendee Tyler Shelton said his gloom revolved around school. He is currently in his final year out of seven that he has spent at the University.

“I just want to let go of school,” Shelton said.

Santa Fe native and UNM freshman transfer student Kai Morgan shared a different sentiment for her gloom. She expressed wanting to release negativity from her life in order to think more positively about herself. Morgan grew up around the tradition of Zozobra her entire life and described the festival’s importance to her.

“It’s like a homecoming,” she said. “You meet new people and you meet people you haven’t seen in a long time.”

As soon as 9 p.m. rolled around the lights in the park were cut out completely. Old Man Gloom waved his arms angrily from side to side as his eyes were a glowing red. His fearsome growls echoed throughout the park on a loudspeaker as the crowd chanted, “Burn him down.”

According to Kiwanis Club president, Scott Wiseman, moving the arms of the marionette is no easy feat. The animation crew works in teams of 4 to move each arm and progressively get more vigorous the angrier Zozobra becomes. By the end of the charged performance Zozobra is practically flailing his arms as they go up in flames.

The design of Zozobra changes a little bit every year although his long white flowing garments stay the same. This year Old Man Gloom sported a turquoise bolo tie to fit in with the ‘60s theme of the festival. This theme was reflected all over the park from the volunteer’s shirts to hippie impersonators holding signs with bubbly text.

This counter-culture representation of the ‘60s resistance is part of the Kiwanis Club decades project. Every year the Zozobra celebration will take on a different decade theme until Zozobra’s 100th birthday in 2024.

The Kiwanis Club organizers donate all of the proceeds from Zozobra to organizations that help children in the community. Kiwanis Club President Scott Wiseman said their goal this year was to reach $100,000.

The people of Santa Fe left Ft. Marcy’s park feeling lighter with their glooms gone and victorious having defeated Old Man Gloom once again.

Justine Lopez is a culture reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @justine_lopez95.