Old Man Gloom does some good

Zozobra goes up in flames Sept. 4, 2015, at Fort Marcy park. The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe says more than 48,000 people attended the event. Luis Sánchez Saturno/New Mexican file photo

Each year, the ritual burning of Zozobra becomes more expensive, leaving organizers to balance the cost of the spectacle against affordable ticket prices. This year, they have some new ideas on how to do that, including new premium tickets.

In 2014, the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe spent nearly $237,000 organizing and executing the burning of Old Man Gloom for 43,000 people. In 2015, it spent more than $276,000 on the event that drew 48,000 spectators. This year, event organizer Ray Sandoval said the club has budgeted almost $295,000.

Tickets for the Sept. 2 event went on sale Monday, and the club sold a record number for opening day — more than 1,300 — Sandoval said.

Of those sold on Monday, 265 were premium tickets, a new addition this year. Limited to 500 people at $25 each, the tickets guarantee revelers a view of the burning Zozobra from a cordoned-off area only several hundred feet away from the marionette. General admission to Zozobra is $10, and children younger than 10 get in free.

Sandoval said club members debated the merits of adding premium tickets and decided it was the best way to help offset rising costs without increasing general admission fees. The club hopes premium ticket sales will raise an additional $12,500.

“Really, it was a conversation about how do we keep it at a $10 ticket,” Sandoval said.

Security at Zozobra’s burning is the most expensive line item. Sandoval would not say exactly how much a contract with a private security company costs, but he did say the club spends about twice as much money on security as it does for its second largest expense, stage lighting, which the club budgeted this year at about $24,000.

To add to the club’s financial concerns, the closure of a failing bridge at the park has forced organizers to route people to the event up Old Taos Highway instead of Bishops Lodge Road and across the arroyo’s narrow bridges.

Once 36,900 people file into the baseball diamond, additional revelers will be diverted to Magers Field, Sandoval said. He said the change could cost the club between $20,000 and $50,000 in lost revenue because admission to Magers Field is free.

“If, for some reason, you’re required to go to Magers Field to see it,” he said, “we’re not going to charge you because you didn’t have to make that choice yourself.”

He said that the club intends to ask the city to trim the trees along the arroyo so people watching Old Man Gloom burn from Magers Field will have a good view.

City spokesman Matt Ross said Tuesday that the city hasn’t yet received the request, but officials would likely grant it. “We want to support that event in any way we can,” he said, “and I’m sure that it would be received positively.”

Contact Dan Schwartz at 505-428-7626 or dschwartz@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @NMDanSchwartz.

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