The novel coronavirus pandemic has crippled economies, paralyzed businesses, infected millions and claimed the lives of more than 170,000 people worldwide.

But the disease is no match for Santa Fe’s boogeyman.

While concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, have forced the cancellation of three of the city’s biggest and most profitable summer events — Santa Fe Indian Market, the Traditional Spanish Market and the International Folk Art Market — Old Man Gloom won’t be backing down.

“Santa Fe is going to get a Zozobra one way or the other,” event organizer Ray Sandoval promised Tuesday.

But the nearly century-old ritual of burning Old Man Gloom, a symbolic destruction of people’s pain and despair from the previous year, may be a much, much less crowded event, depending on the state of the public health emergency in September.

A record-breaking crowd of 64,000 revelers packed into Fort Marcy Ballpark downtown to watch the burning last year, which may not be safe — or even legal — under new orders from the governor calling for social distancing and prohibiting the gathering of groups larger than five.

Still, Sandoval said, the show will go on.

“Obviously, this has been a year in which gloom has reigned paramount supreme, so Zozobra will burn,” he said.

“We’re hoping that by Sept. 4, we can have a full crowd, but obviously we’re going to monitor what our governmental and our health officials say,” Sandoval added. “My Plan B is that I will build a full-scale Zozobra and then [put on a show that] we will stream to everybody for free if I cannot have a mass gathering.”

Sandoval said Comcast upgraded the fiber optics in the park last year, which should make livestreaming the event trouble-free.

While the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, which puts on the annual event, would prefer to have a “full crowd” and “hopefully” celebrate the end of the pandemic as a community, Sandoval said the organization will make accommodations for a virtual and televised burning if necessary.

“We’ll ask people to gather with their families and to burn Zozobra with us” from the safety of their homes, he said. “We’ll have a way for them to send us their glooms electronically, and we will print them out and burn them.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

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