Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Will Shuster’s Zozobra™ 2012 Burning Of Old Man Gloom Sept 6

Share Article

The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, the official owner of Zozobra™, the burning of “Old Man Gloom” that takes away all of the towns troubles for another year, brings the traditional event back once again for the 88th year from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m., Thursday, September 6, 2012. The event takes place at Santa Fe’s Fort Marcy Park next to the Old Taos Highway. The gates to Fort Marcy Park open at 3 p.m.. This is a “Featured Event” on Santa Fe visitor guide

Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Will Shuster’s Zozobra™ 2012 Burning Of Old Man Gloom Sept 6

Will Shuster’s Zozobra™ event is staged each year by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe as a fiery and exciting kick-off to the annual Fiestas de Santa Fe during the weekend following Labor Day. This is a “Featured Event” on Santa Fe visitor guide

Although the Fiestas celebration dates back to 1712, renowned Santa Fe artist Will Shuster added Zozobra™ in 1924. Kiwanis became officially involved in 1963. Shuster assigned all rights, title and interest in Zozobra™ on June 19th, 1964 to The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, which retains exclusive copyright and Trademark to the figure. The Kiwanis continue the Zozobra™ tradition, and as a major fund raiser, the event has become a great way for Santa Fean’s to participate in community service each year.

The effigy Zozobra™ is a giant animated wooden and cloth marionette that waves its arms and growls ominously at the approach of its fate. A major highlight of the pageant is the fire spirit dancer, dressed in a flowing red costume, who appears at the top of the stage to drive away the white-sheeted "glooms" from the base of the giant Zozobra™. The fire dance was created by Jacques Cartier, a former New York ballet dancer and local dance teacher, who performed the role for 37 years. His dance student, James Lilienthal took over the fire spirit role in 1970 and has continued it for 32 years.

Shuster constructed the figure of Zozobra™ until 1964, when he gave his detailed model to the Kiwanis Club to continue the tradition. Over the years the effigy has grown larger, reaching a height of 49 feet in 2001. Zozobra™ is a well crafted framework of preplanned and pre-cut sticks, covered with chicken wire and yards of muslin. It is stuffed with bushels of shredded paper, which traditionally includes obsolete police reports, paid off mortgage papers, and even personal divorce papers.

There are over 12 different food vendors participating in the event this year including roasted corn, burritos and the other usual items. The local high school Key Clubs supply bottled water, sodas and candy products. Entertainment during this year’s event includes local musical groups Test Tube Panda, Mariachi Buenaventura, Sol Fire and La Junta.

Advance Tickets:
General Admission $10
Children (4-6 years old) $3
Infants (0-3 years old) FREE
Day-of Gate Prices:
General Admission $15
Children (4-6 years old) $5
Infants (0-3 years old) FREE

Below is a description of the first public Zozobra burning as it appeared in the September 2, 1926, edition of the Santa Fe New Mexican:

Following vespers at the Cathedral, a long procession headed by the Conquistadores Band marched to the vacant space back of the city hall, where Zozobra, a hideous effigy figure 20 feet high, produced by the magic wand of Will Shuster, stood in ghastly silence illuminated by weird green fires. While the band played a funeral march, a group of Kiwanians in black robes and hoods stole around the figure, with four others seated before the green fires.

When City Attorney Jack Kennedy on behalf of the absent Mayor, solemnly uttered the death sentence of Zozobra, with Isadoro Armijo as interpreter, and fired several revolver shots at the monster, the green fires changed to red, the surrounding ring of bonfires was ignited, red fires blazed at the foot of the figure and shortly a match was applied to its base and leaped into a column of many colored flames.

As it burned the encircling fires blazed brighter, there was a staccato of exploding fireworks from the figure and round about, and throwing off their black robes the spectators emerged in gala costume, joining an invading army of bright-hued harlequins with torches in a dance around the fires as the band struck up "La Cucaracha." Following which the crowd marched back between bonfires lining the streets to the armory and the big baile was on. It brought out the biggest crowd of native merrymakers seen here for years....

About provides locals and visitors to Santa Fe alike the most current interactive platform for events, music, arts, business, dining and lifestyle. is a division of Hutton Broadcasting, located at 2502 C. Camino Entrada, Santa Fe, NM 87507

Contact Information:
Scott Hutton / Hutton Broadcasting
(505) 471-1067 (Media inquiries only, please)

Zozobra™ Event contact information:
Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe
P.O. Box 622
Santa Fe, NM 87504-0622
Zozobra Hotline: 505-660-1965

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Kevin Kenealy
Visit website