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Goin’ Bugg-y: Lights find a permanent home

The Bugg Lights have found a permanent home on Becker Avenue in Belen. The display can now be seen year-round. (Clara Garcia/News-Bulletin)

BELEN – Perky penguins, a charismatic chorus, a fabulous Ferris wheel and much more have called Belen home for the past five years, and have now found their way to a permanent display.

The city of Belen has been the caretaker of the Bugg Lights since May 2014 when Norman and Joyce Bugg, who for more than 40 years had the display at their Albuquerque home, donated it to the city. Since then, the display has been a Christmas tradition at the Belen Harvey House Museum.

The display has now been moved and will be on permanent display year-round at a city-owned building, the Bugg Lights Museum, at 513 Becker Ave.

“Because the display had to be put up and taken down every year (at the Belen Harvey House Museum), everything started to break,” said Belen City Councilor Ronnie Torres of the display. “Everything is hand-made and the display had been outside for the last couple of years, and both weather and vandals had gotten to it.”

Torres, who was the museum tech when the Bugg Lights first came to Belen, said he didn’t want Belen to be known as the city who destroyed the Bugg Lights. The councilor spoke with Mayor Jerah Cordova and received permission to renovate the space.

He also said the city is working on developing an agreement for Belen Art League members to volunteer their time to manage the new museum.

On hand for the June ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Bugg Lights Museum are, sitting in front, Joyce Bugg and her sister, “Aunt” Marjie Clingenpeel; in back, from left, Belen Art League artists Cece Aragon, Patti Bucklew and Kelly Cross, Belen City Councilor Ronnie Torres, Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova, Tom Greer, Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rhona Espinoza, Danny Bernal Jr. and Eloisa Tabet.

Since January, Torres and fellow art league members have been on a mission to save and restore the display. They’ve already spent more than 800 hours working at the site, painting and making sure the display is up and running. They were able to use nearly $9,000 of city funds to pay for most of the costs of the renovation.

Visitors will be able to walk through and see phase one of the display – everything that is on the inside. Phase two, Torres said, will be outside behind the building, where they’ve put up a fence.

The outside display will be available during the holiday season.

Over the years, many of the mechanical displays stopped working, but the volunteers were able to make everything work again. Every light in the display has been changed to LED and the mechanical displays, which are operated by remote control, won’t be turned on until someone visits the museum.

Along with the display, visitors will be able to shop in the gift store and build a penguin.

While there is no fee to visit the museum, Torres said they will gladly take donations. All money generated at the Bugg Lights Museum, he said, will go back into fixing, maintaining and growing the display.

The Bugg Lights Museum is open from noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with expanded hours starting this fall.