Aug. 20, 2017
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He's ready for you.
Enrique Limón

You Better Burn!

Approaching the big 9-Oh, Zozobra is still kickin’ (and creepy as hell)

September 3, 2013, 12:00 am
Don’t let the bowtie fool you. Will Shuster’s moany, lantern-jawed effigy, Zozobra, is far from a gentleman. A gallery filled with Zozo “sightings” on shows him hitchhiking, messing with a fire truck and taunting what is labeled a “sheep” before, perhaps, eating him. Never mind that the sheep looks more like a yellow lab, the old bastard is out to get you, so join in the primal “Burn him!” chants this Thursday, and see him gone—along with all of your problems, bills and loans.

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.

89th Burning of Zozobra
7 pm Thursday, Sept. 5. $10. Fort Marcy Park,
tickets and more info here


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