Created by the artist Will Shuster, Zozobra “Old Man Gloom” has kicked off the Santa Fe Fiesta with the burning of his marionette effigy to the merriment of fiesta goers for the past 95 years. Under the supervision of the Kiwanis Club the giant puppet has grown to be 49.11 feet. In 2007 the Guinness Book of Records certified Zozobra as being the largest marionette in the world. Each year thousands of people enter Ft. Marcy Park to watch Zozobra burn in the hope that their sorrows will flee in the ashes of Zozobra and they can partake in the merriment of the fiesta.
Will Shuster, the artist who created Zozobra and the Rodeo de Santa Fe bull suffered mustard gas poisoning during World War I that weakened his lungs. He came to Santa Fe to Sunmount Sanitorium where he sought treatment. The sanitorium began as a group of tent houses and small cottages in 1880 for people suffering from tuberculosis. Dr. Frank Meara and is wife built a hospital to care for the “lungers,” as they were called back then.