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Playful glow

An iceberg made out of wrought iron was created for the penguins to slide down and perch on. (Jim Thompson / Journal)
An iceberg made out of wrought iron was created for the penguins to slide down and perch on. (Jim Thompson / Journal)
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Every year, thousands of lights illuminate the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden for the holidays during the River of Lights. And this year is no different.

With more than 400 handmade sculptures scattered throughout the grounds, it’s a visual wonderland for visitors. In fact, more than 87,000 people visited the event last year.

“This has continued to grow into a family tradition,” says Judi Civerolo, special events director for the New Mexico BioPark Society. “We’re constantly adding more and more to the event and it’s something we work on year-round.”

River of Lights WHEN: 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24-Dec. 13; 6-10 p.m. Dec. 14-Dec. 30. Closed on Dec. 24-25
WHERE: ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden, 2601 W. Central
HOW MUCH: $10 adults, $5 children ages 3-12, under 3 free at www.bioparksociety.orgor at the door


Park & Ride service

With more than 87,000 people attending River of Lights last year, city officials are pushing free Park & Ride services for the event.
Judi Civerolo, special events director for the New Mexico BioPark Society, says that once the parking lot is full at the BioPark Botanic Garden, it takes a lot of time to find parking.
“We’ve been offering the service for a couple years,” she says. “It’s important that we can get everyone in the park to enjoy River of Lights.”
This year’s service begins on opening night, Saturday, Nov. 24. It runs on Friday and Saturday nights through Dec. 8. From Dec. 14-30, the service runs every night with the exception of Dec. 24-25, when the event is closed.
Locations are as follows:
n ABQ BioPark Zoo, 903 Tenth SW. Begins at 6 p.m. and bus runs every 20 minutes. The last zoo pick up is 8:45 p.m. through Dec. 8. From Dec. 14-30 it is at 9:45 p.m.
The return service from the Botanic Garden to the zoo is 9:30 p.m. through Dec. 8 and 10:30 p.m. Dec. 14-30.
n Visitors can take the train from Tingley Beach, 1800 Tingley SW, which also runs every 20 minutes. It begins nightly at 6 p.m. The return service from the Botanic Garden to Tingley Beach is 9:30 p.m. through Dec. 8 and 10 p.m. Dec. 14-30.
For more information on the event and the Park & Ride service, visit www.riveroflights.org

Back on the main lawn is the underwater aquarium, which includes an angel fish, a sea turtle, a stingray, some trigger fish, a live coral rock centerpiece, an octopus and a small school of clown fish.

As with previous years, the River of Lights has added more sculptures to challenge imaginations. Civerolo says one of the sculptures she is excited about premiering is the Cheshire Cat, which disappears and reappears throughout the “wonderland tunnel” in the children’s section. She says there also are colorful crayons located throughout the children’s maze.

“This was one part of the event that we wanted to work on last year,” she says. “But we ran out of time. So this year, we wanted to punch it up in the children’s area and I think both adults and children will love the Cheshire Cat.”

Inside the Spanish-Moorish Garden, Joey Lopez created an 11-foot fountain decked out in LED lights.

“We came up with this on the fly,” Lopez says. “There used to be a structure in here but when it got moved out we needed to add something. I think it adds a hint of class to the event. It’s someplace that I think adults will enjoy more than the kids.”

Civerolo says since last year the crew also created a snowman child to add to the snowman couple.

She says the trio now greets visitors at the entrance to River of Lights.

“We’re trying to make each space feel welcoming,” she says. “Plus the little family is so cute.”

River of Lights is celebrating its “Sweet 16″ this year. In addition to being an event that the entire family can attend, it also raises money for the New Mexico BioPark Society.

Civerolo says last year’s event raised $288,000 for the society.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize that the money raised by us is used for the BioPark,” she says. “It’s nice to know that the money isn’t going somewhere else and it stays local to help us create new and exciting events for the BioPark.”

  • The snowman couple has become a family with the addition of a child. The family greets visitors at the entrance of River of Lights. (Jim Thompson / Journal)

  • An 11-foot fountain was created by Joey Trujillo in the Spanish-Moorish Garden for the River of Lights. (Jim Thompson / Journal)

  • Also new to this year’s lights is the Cheshire Cat, which disappears and reappears in the fantasy children’s area. (Jim Thompson / Journal)

  • The lillies sculpture is full of colored LED lights. (Jim Thompson / Journal)

  • An iceberg made out of wrought iron was created for the penguins to slide down and perch on. (Jim Thompson / Journal)

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