Burn, baby, burn.
That is the sentiment of many New Mexicans in advance of Friday’s 96th burning of Old Man Gloom in Santa Fe during the official Burning of Zozobra.
“Covid go away so I can travel again one day,” wrote one person in a gloom submitted for the burning. “My gloom is about the state of the U.S. and also the disappointment in my life. Up in flames! Burn!” wrote another.
A triple whammy of the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest and divisive politics has swept through the country. On the pandemic front, the year 2020 has been unlike anything experienced since the Spanish flu a hundred years ago – threatening and taking lives, upending lifestyles and plans, and causing the cancellation of virtually every public event.
Zozobra was almost one of them.
Organizer Ray Sandoval wondered if the annual event would take place this year. He and his crew decided to continue the annual tradition, but without the usual crowd of tens of thousands at Fort Marcy Park in Santa Fe.
“(The Kiwanis) promised we would burn Zozobra in perpetuity in 1964,” Sandoval told Journal Arts Editor Adrian Gomez, who will have a photo package and story about the event in Friday’s Venue Plus.
“I felt the weight of history on my shoulders. We made the hard decision to move forward and present it for free to the community.”
With the traditional “gloom box” to put your troubles in inaccessible this year, virtual glooms may be submitted online. And by the look of glooms submitted, 2020 was a difficult year for many New Mexicans.
“May you take your pandemic, wildfires, unemployment, economic crashes, riots, anxiety, stress, heartbreak & political and global unrest burn away with Old Man Gloom,” said one gloom author. “All of us trapped inside tearing each other apart, taking for granted what we have, and not seeing how good we have it. BURN HIM!!!!!!!!”
For more of New Mexicans’ gloom notes, turn to the Saturday Journal for a special page on the 2020 burning of Old Man Gloom.
Typically, more than 200 people work to bring the 50-foot puppet made of cotton cloth and wood to life. But this year, no more than four people worked on Old Man Gloom at a time. While no crowd will be allowed at Fort Marcy Park, the burning will be aired on KOAT-TV, and there will be drive-up watch parties at Balloon Fiesta Park and Isleta Amphitheater in Albuquerque, and AMP Concerts at 100 S. Polo Drive in Santa Fe. The watch parties, which have various fees, include entertainment and presumably will follow state health orders and require face masks and social distancing.
“2020 is the banner year for gloom and doom, and the public needed this tradition to continue,” Sandoval said. “Everyone stepped up to help us keep the tradition alive. This is our 96th year, and it’s needed more than ever.”
Aside from burning away glooms, the burning of Zozobra is the Santa Fe Kiwanis Club’s major fundraising project. So, yes, some good can rise from ashes – even in a dark year like 2020.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.