Aug. 30 marked the 95th annual burning of Zozobra, a historic New Mexican tradition, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico at Fort Marcy Park. The event doors opened at 4:30 p.m., drawing people, bands, vendors alike.

Old Man Gloom is an eerie monster-like puppet that represents sorrow, first created in 1924 by Will Shuster. 

The burning of Zozobra is always occurs, rain or shine, so even though it was windy Friday night the show went on as scheduled. This year the theme for the burning of Old Man Gloom was the 1970s, with era’s music playing, such as the bands Abba and Queen.



The original size of Zozobra was a 6-foot statue created by Shuster himself, but over the years it grew in size to be 50-feet tall. Every year, Old Man Gloom is stuffed by volunteers and takes about 3,500 hours to create. 

The mythology behind Old Man Gloom is that he is a sheep stealing monster who takes away all happiness and cast a spell on Santa Fe. When he is burned all the gloom burns with him. 

The crowd will yell often “burn him” before the ceremony.  

Zozobra is started on fire by his enemy, the Fire Spirit Dancer — a person in a red suit and headdress that dances with torches below Old Man Gloom before starting him on fire. 

The event takes place every year in the same location and attracting thousands of people from all over New Mexico and other places alike. 

Lauren McDonald is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.comor on Twitter @laurmcdonald24.