For the first time ever, the Gloomy One was previewed to the public during ZozoFest—a marionette mitzvah held at El Museo Cultural—where locals got up close and personal with the 60-foot-tall folk hero.
His head, separated from his body, was a sight. And though his hair was a Santa Fe-centric hue of gray, don’t expect him to show his age just yet. Zozobra Chairman Ray Sandoval says the move is all part of the big reveal.
“He hasn’t been to the hairdresser yet,” Sandoval tells SFR, adding that his locks won’t be dyed ‘til the big day, in order to keep expectations alive. “I don’t know what it is…maybe memories from my childhood, trying to guess which color his hair would be.”
Now in its 89th year, the burning of Zozobra has a lot to prove. A community uproar last year, revolving around organizational issues and ticket costs, put a chink in Old Man Gloom’s armor, but like a phoenix, Sandoval says the “mean, grumpy, menacing figure” is sure to rise.
Part of regaining the mystique, the head honcho says, is adhering to a script and design penned by Shuster in 1953 (check out that schnoz). “He hit his stride in the 1950s,” Sandoval says of the behemoth. “We’re really trying to return it to what it used to be.”
Whether or not this year’s changes pay off, for the chairman, who first became involved with the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe—the organization that stages the spectacle and administers the scholarship fund that benefits from it—at age 6, the burning’s sure to be a bittersweet moment.
Adhering to the “too many cooks” adage, Sandoval built this year’s Zozo head himself from a heap of wood, chicken wire, paper and cloth.
“I’m gonna be sad to burn it,” he assures.
Looking to be part of the action and burn, baby, burn your woes away? Swing by the SFR mothership, feed our Gloom Box, and see it turn to ashes at its big bro’s feet.
7 pm Thursday, Sept. 5. $10. Fort Marcy Park,
tickets and more info here