First-Timers’ Guide To Zozobra

The First-Timers’ Guide to Zozobra

Zozobra Newbie? Get ready for Santa Fe’s hottest party! One of New Mexico’s most enduring icons, Zozobra, aka Old Man Gloom, was created in 1924 by legendary artist Will Shuster and is now set ablaze annually by the Santa Fe Kiwanis Club. The 96th Burning of Zozobra on the Friday before Labor Day, September 4, 2020, is a highlight of Santa Fe’s summer season. And it's the best way to shake off gloom and fire up fun!

Who is Old Man Gloom?


One of New Mexico’s most historic traditions, the Burning of Zozobra, aka Old Man Gloom, showcases the Original Burning Man, predating the Black Rock newcomer by 60 years. Will Shuster’s creation originated as a homely 6-foot effigy made to entertain friends and family, and over the decades has morphed into a towering 50-footer, one of the world’s tallest fully functioning marionettes. His bones of wood and wire shrouded in endless yards of muslin, Zozobra is stuffed with an absolute mountain of shredded paper. Tucked inside his enormous body are slips of paper inscribed with a year’s worth of gloomy thoughts and disappointments, destined to go up in smoke when he is set alight in a fiery extravaganza culminating in the city’s finest fireworks display. And General Admission for this only-in-Santa-Fe experience is a mere $10 per person, kids 10 & under free, except on the day of the event only, Friday, September 4, 2020 when General Admission is bumped up to $15, with kids 10 & under still free.

What’s this gloomy guy’s backstory? An empty-headed monster, out to wreak havoc whenever and wherever he can, Santa Fe’s biggest trouble-maker gladly takes the blame––or rather the credit––for everything that goes wrong in life. Zozobra, whose name comes from a Spanish expression meaning “the gloomy one,” has a fascinating history worth discovering, and any Santa Fesino has tales to share of this local outlaw’s dastardly deeds. But for now, let’s take you right into the heart of the action.

The When and The Where of Zozobra

First things first. In a big reveal, Old Man Gloom is introduced to his loyal fans at the annual ZozoFest, a free public party and art exhibit from Friday-Sunday, August 23-25, 2019, the weekend before the Burning of Zozobra. This is where to discover unique Zozobra art for sale and be the first to score souvenirs! Seen in pieces, with Zozobra’s massive head looking out over the gargantuan torso full of all things gloomy––divorce papers, report cards, pink slips––name it, then go right ahead and put it in there––the Old Man doesn’t seem quite so threatening.  But just you wait until the main event!

The Official Burning of Zozobra takes
place annually on the Friday before torchLabor Day at Fort Marcy Park in downtown Santa Fe, occurring this year on Friday, September 4, 2020. The field gates open at 4:30 p.m. with live entertainment, the headliner, Grupo Fantsma, performas at 8 p.m. and burn time is scheduled for 9:30 p.m., weather permitting. Weather conditions may require an earlier or later start time. and the event runs until approximately 10:10 p.m., again weather permitting. The times may flex, but Zozobra is a rain or shine event––and whether he burns early or late, he WILL burn regardless of the elements! Do like the locals: Come to the field for an early preview between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. to see the Gloomy One being painstakingly hauled up onto his pole.

What's New to Zozobra?

Zozobra is committed to being sustainable! Using recycling and trash receptacles helps make Zozobra litter-free, and by bringing emplty, refillable water bottles, you can stay hydrated while Old Man Gloom dries up into ashes. And there's a bike valet for those who want to use pedal power to attend.

With 2024's 100th anniversary approaching, the Club recognized that this momentous occasion needed to be at the forefront of planning. In 2014, with ten years to go until 2024, Event Chair Ray Sandoval came up with the idea of honoring the legacy of this historic Santa Fe event by journeying through each successive decade since Zozobra's first appearance in 1924. And with that in mind, the Decades Project was born.

In 2014, Year One, Zozobra went way back to the Roaring 1920s, with a handlebar mustache and a maroon waistband, his hands tied behind his back to demonstrate his outlaw status. Year Two, 2015, saw Old Man Gloom deeply invested in the Depression Era. Designed in grayscale to mirror the struggles of the era, he was bald and fat around the middle, thanks to the extreme gloom he spread throughout the 1930s.

2016, Year Three, took  Zozobra into the 1940s WW2 era. In recognition of the profound and far-reaching consequences of that time, the Kiwanis partnered with the Santa Fe Jewish Center - Chabad, adding a special Holocaust Memorial on Thursday, September 1, 2016, the 77th anniversary of the start of WWII and 75th anniversary of the date when the Jewish population of Germany was ordered to wear a yellow Star of David, and gays, gypsies and outsiders were similarly marked and publicly shamed.

2017, Year Four of the Decades Project, brought Old Man Gloom squarely into the Mad Men 1950s, and his 50s style cardigan sweater was a nod to the "Father Knows Best" era.

2018, Year Five, saw the Kiwanis Club channeling the good vibes of the 1960s, but knowing Zozobra, he will be feeling anything but good!

2019, Year Six of the Decades Project took Zozobra into the 1970s disco era, and it was be a blast to boogie down with Old Man Gloom!

In 2020, Zozobra will visit all the crazy times of the go-go 1980s until he's gone-gone!

What else is new?

There's a Bike Valet! Ride your bike down to the venue and thanks to a partnership with Bike Santa Fe, a Bike Valet will be located on tPaseo de Paeralta at Bishop's Lodge Road, on the western side of the Masonic Lodge parking lot, located just west of the Scottush Rte Temple, the entry point to the venue.

Your bike will be safely stored and you can retrieve it at the end of the event!

How To Be An Expert Gloom Buster

It helps to be to in the know when the gates open at 4:30 p.m. for the event:

  • Tickets are available online or in person at local credit unions in advance at $10 per person, kids under 10  free. On the day of the event only, General Admission is bumped up to $15 per person, with kids 10 and under still free.Insider tip: Come early enough to capture the full flavor of the event.

Outside picnic food is allowed, but all food must be in a clear plastic bag the same as NFL policy and will be searched on entry. No coolers or containers are permitted. Lots of food trucks on the scene too!

Zozobra is stadium size now. The NFL rules banning all bags, purses, or backpacks over 4.5” x 6.5” in every professional stadium but will allow you to bring your belongings in your pockets, in a clutch roughly the size of your hand, or in a clear plastic bag. with that in mind, please note:

  • Please, NO backpacks; food, child care and medical supplies must be in a clear plastic bag the same as NFL policy and will be searched on entry.
  • Purses and fanny packs must be 4.5" x 6.5" or smaller and are subject to search
  • Camera bags are allowed only for prhotographers with press credentials.
  • No alcohol or recreational drugs.
  • No coolers, metal utensils, glass containers or bottles are permitted on the field. Please empty your refillable water bottle before going through security and refill it when you get there!
  • No tables or metal lawn chairs are permitted on the field; only collapsible cloth folding camping chairs are allowed. No chairs permitted in premium viewing locations.
  • Strollers are not permitted on the field; there is a stroller check-in area for easy retrieval, and families who wish to keep their strollers with them can watch fro the family viewing area south of the main venue. Please no wagons or large strollers.
  • No pets are allowed, with the exception of certified service animals.
  • No laser lights, sparklers or fireworks on the field.

Getting there

There is no parking at the field; please consult the event map here: You can park for FREE  at the Railrunner Express station at South Capitol and ride the FREE shutte to the venue.  Parking is also available in city parking lots, with a flat parking fee of $7 that applies after 6pm. You can also ride the City of Santa Fe transit buses to the event, which are on a regular service schedule on Zozobra Day, and then let Uber or Lyft take you home.

If you are riding the free shuttle to Zozobra from the South Capitol Parking Lot, the shuttle will drop you off at the on the east corner of Washington Avenue and Paseo de Peralta.

If you are riding the free shuttle back to the South Capitol Parking Lot, please look for the return shuttles stationed on the south side of Paseo de Peralta just east of Washington Avenue.


For our ADA & senior patrons, please park at the South Capitol Parking lot on St. Francis Drive and Cordova Road, and ride the FREE ADA shuttle to the venue! Please look for the specifically marked accessible shuttle; we request one companion only for ADA and seniors. This year, we request that our ADA viewing area be reserved for ADA guests only, and we request one companion to accompany in the viewing area, which is first-come, first-serve.


If you are riding Uber or Lyft, you will be dropped off and picked up on Lincoln Avenue south of Federal Place.


YES, you CAN ride your bike to Zozobra with no worries!
Thanks to a partnership with the two-wheel wizards at Bike Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Kiwanis will have a Bike Valet onsite so that dedicated riders can pedal down and then walk in to watch Old Man Gloom go down in flames, knowing that trusty two-wheeler is in the care of the bicycle pros!
The Bike Valet will be located on the west side of the Masonic Lodge parking lot, located just to the west of the Scottish Rite Center on Paseo de Peralta at Bishop's Lodge Road. There is no charge for this service, and Bike Santa Fe personnel will be there to accept your bike, store it safely, and help retrieve it once Old Man Gloom is a pile of ashes.
So go ahead, buy that Zozobra ticket, watch that old villain disappear, and then zip on home knowing that you helped Mother Earth by using your own two legs to power you into the heart of Santa Fe for the 95th Burning of Zozobra on Friday, August 30, 2019.


6 AM

  • Murales Road closes from Valle del Sol to Cuesta del Norte

7 AM

  • Murales Road closes from Bishop's Lodge Road to Old Taos Highway
  • Calle Estado from Old Taos Highway to Governor Dempsey Road is local traffic only
  • Governor Dempsey Road from Calle Estado to Bishops Lodge Road is local traffic only

4 PM

  • Bishop's Lodge Road closes from Paseo de Peralta to Valley Drive

5 PM

  • Murales Road closes completely from Bishop's Lodge Road to Old Taos Highway.
  • Artist/Hyde Park Road closes from Bishop's Lodge to Gonzales Road. Through traffic will be able to pass on Gonzales Road, but with adjacent road closures, streets may experience congestion, so please allow extra time.
  • Old Taos Highway from Paseo de Peralta to Murales Road
  • Rosario Boulevard closes from Griffin Street to Old Taos Highway
  • Paseo de Peralta closes from North Guadalupe Street (east of DeVargas Mall) to East Marcy Street.
  • Guadalupe Street, Alamo Drive to Paseo de Peralta, southbound lane closed
  • Guadalupe Street, Catron Street to Paseo de Peralta, northbound lane closed



  • Closes at 6 AM from Valle del Sol to Cuesta del Norte
  • Closes at 7 AM from Bishop's Lodge Road to Old Taos Highway


  • Closes at 4 PM from Paseo de Peralta to Valley Drive


  • Closes at 5 PM from Bishop's Lodge to Gonzales Road. Through traffic will able to pass on Gonzales Road, but with adjacent road closures, streets may experience congestion, so please allow extra time.


  • Closes at 5 PM from Paseo de Peralta to Murales Road


  • Closes at 5 PM from Griffin Street to Old Taos Highway


  • Closes at 5 PM from North Guadalupe Street (east of DeVargas Mall) to East Marcy Street.


  • Alamo Drive to Paseo de Peralta, southbound lane closed
  • Catron Street to Paseo de Peralta, northbound lane closed

Get Down for a Good Time

Once you’re on the field and have scouted out a prime viewing spot, it’s time to kick back and enjoy the succession of red-hot bands that keep the crowd rocking as Zozobra’s appointed hour of doom approaches. A gloom box is located on the field, so you will still have time to write down and add your woes up until 8:00 p.m. when the last of the gloom is added to feed the Old Man's voracious appetite for trouble.

Plenty of food vendors are on hand to feed the hungry, cold drinks are located on the field, and Zozobra souvenirs fly off the shelves like lightning. Don’t wait to get that T-shirt or Zozobra bobble-head, or you might go home without! As the field fills, be sure to keep a sharp eye out for devoted fans in vintage tees and diehard fanatics who masquerade as Zozobra himself.

As the sun sets and anticipation rises, more fun and surprises ensue. Beach ball toss, anyone? Zozobra glares down from his perch at the top of the field when the Santa Fe Fiesta Court comes to pay homage, welcoming Old Man Gloom as the point man for a week’s worth of Fiesta events to follow. A litany of Zozobra’s crimes is shared with the crowd and the city’s biggest, baddest and oldest renegade is pronounced guilty as charged. And suddenly, 9:30 p.m. lights out (weather permitting), it's time for the reckoning!

Are You Ready to Burn Him?

In the darkness, the Zozobra Orchestra launches into an eerie funereal tune and trapped on his pole, Old Man Gloom––who arrogantly assumed he was the evening’s guest of honor––swivels his head side to side, angrily trying to see what’s happening. Flailing his arms and growling for help, he calls out his gang of gloomies (a crop of lucky under-14-year-olds) to rescue him and exact revenge, but alas for him, they are chased away by a parade of torch-bearers who set bonfires alight on the stage. The threat of disaster looming, Zozobra snarls in rage and frustration, only to be met at last by the appearance of the Fire Spirit, his age-old arch-enemy.

As the crowd chants, “Burn him,” the Fire Spirit draws strength and inspiration from their approval, dancing up and down, taunting the gloomy giant whose frenzied howls cannot prevent his appointment with destiny. Blazing torches in each hand, the Fire Spirit sends sparks aloft to Zozobra’s head, where his fate is sealed in flames and gloom is vanquished for yet another year under a dazzling fireworks display.

First You Have to Visit Santa Fe, New Mexico 

Begin by getting your hotel reservations in place since the event takes place on the Friday before Labor Day, summer's last big holiday! Make the most of the 96th Burning of Zozobra on the Friday before Labor Day, September 4, 2020, by staying on to see the beauty and culture of Santa Fe County! A week of Official Fiestas de Santa Fe events begin on Saturday, September 5, 2020, the day after Zozobra burns.

You can ride the New Mexico Railrunner Express and skip the driving Railrunnerlogohassle! On Friday, September 4, 2020, the Rail Runner Express will adjust the train schedule so people can easily attend the 96th Annual Burning of Zozobra. Passengers traveling to Santa Fe for the event can take advantage of a later post-event departure time, as well as the addition of a second late-night southbound train. Shuttles take passengers from the South Capitol Station to Ft. Marcy Park, and then back to the station after the celebration, where the last train is held until all ticketed passengers have boarded.

Locals and Santa Fe visitors, you can make your life easy! Park your car and pick up the New Mexico Railrunner at the Santa Fe County, NM 599 station (approximately 11 miles south of Santa Fe) and take the round-trip shuttle from South Capitol to the venue. Buy a round-trip ticket for just $4.00!

Why Add Zozobra to My Annual Bucket-List?


Sound like autumn’s hottest adventure? ABSOLUTELY! The Decades Project leading up to Zozobra’s 100th anniversary in 2024 means a new experience with a new Mr. Z every year.

Join the faithful who come year after year from around the globe to cast off the sorrows of the past and renew their spirits together in Santa Fe, the City Different, with the most different tradition ever!