He’s not necessarily what you’d call a looker.
He’s scrawny, big-mouthed, feeble and bug-eyed. Then there’s the hair…don’t even get me started on the hair.
Yet people pilgrimage to visit him yearly by the thousands, despite his cosmetic flaws. He’s Zozobra, aka Old Man Gloom, who like 87 other Septembers past, will burn to the ground this week, taking with it all spectators’ woes.
“We’ve got a really cool surprise lined up this year. That alone is worth the price of admission,” a cryptic Ray Valdez, the event’s producer, tells SFR.
An addition to the Fiestas de Santa Fe by the late artist Will Shuster, the gloomy one is now the celebration’s main event. That first version towered at 20 feet and has, in the subsequent years, grown to over twice that.
“We started him back in May, working on the eyes,” Valdez, who is also the 49-feet, 11-inch marionette effigy’s main builder, says. “The framing materials came in July and, after his skull was built, we moved him into a warehouse.”
In weeks since, he’s been “wired, dressed and stuffed.”
Valdez, “tweaking” Zozo’s eyes, continued to tease about this edition of the burning festivity in PT Barnum fashion, boasting that attendees should expect an “extra special” fireworks show that’ll pay tribute to the state’s centennial.
“It’s also the 88th annual burning, which lands on the 300th Fiestas de Santa Fe and the 332nd anniversary of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680,” he says, hinting that the colors on the marionette’s hair, cummerbund, cuffs and bowtie will individually reflect New Mexico’s rich cultural heritage.
“Think crimson, because a lot of blood was spilled,” he says. “We’re dealing with a Pagan effigy here…we’ve got a bunch of tricks up our sleeve.”
Pressed for specifics on what folks should expect, in true form, he left it at “something very tricky with his eyes and face.”
One thing that is set in stone is that you can be part of the action by inserting your sorrows inside SFR’s own gloom box, located in our office’s front desk (132 E Marcy St.) until Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 5 pm.
Sorry, it’s not big enough to accommodate your ex. Trust me, I checked.