The annual burning of Zozobra, a 50-foot tall marionette, is seen by locals as a spiritual cleanse.
"For 85 years, locals have gathered annually to watch Zozobra -- a giant, grimacing marionette -- go up in flames. The effigy embodies all the gloom of the previous year, and when it is burned, those troubles are thought to vanish.
They call it the Santa Fe New Year.
'It's kind of like an exorcism,' said McDowell, who has attended the event -- which draws a notoriously rowdy, often drunk crowd -- almost every year since he was 9. He said he hoped Thursday's burning would leave him with a clean slate."