Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Call it a lifeline for Nob Hill businesses, one that will adorn storefronts along Route 66 with colorful, glowing light sculptures, and perhaps draw customers to spend some cash on meals and gifts during the holidays.
On Wednesday, the city’s Cultural Services Department announced The Route 66 Shop & Glow.
The effort is a pivot for the department because such community events as the Nob Hill Shop and Stroll and the Twinkle Light Parade are on hiatus until 2021. It will also provide shoppers with an illuminated experience – which will be somewhat familiar.
The New Mexico BioPark Society lent the city some River of Lights sculptures, which are placed along the stretch in Nob Hill.
“We were looking for some opportunities to do something in Nob Hill with these two events not happening this year,” said Shelle Sanchez, director of the Cultural Services Department.
While the customary River of Lights extravaganza is a no-go this year, the BioPark’s Botanic Garden isn’t going completely dark. The ABQ BioPark Society announced Wednesday that some of the light sculptures will be positioned along the BioPark garden’s pathways during extended winter hours starting Dec. 12.
The city will keep the garden open until 8:30 p.m., with evening ticket sales benefiting the BioPark Society, which normally raises between $800,000 and $1 million with the River of Lights. Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance. The system for online ticket sales is still being set up.
Sanchez said the city used some of the remaining Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES Act) money for the project.
According to the city, the effort will have paid out $124,500 to 35 local businesses and $23,000 to 14 artists.
“We’re renting out window space from the businesses that wanted to participate,” Sanchez said. “The other half of the spaces will have illuminated art installations that were commissioned from artists.”
The city’s goal is to attract shoppers to Nob Hill for holiday purchases or dinner, all while being greeted by glowing snowmen, flowers, icicles, animals and more along the path where the Twinkle Light Parade would have taken place.
The Route 66 Shop & Glow will light up Central nightly from 5 to 9 throughout December.
“We encourage people to walk in family pods and pick up food from the open restaurants,” she said.
Nineteen restaurants will be offering carryout or curbside pickup. Sixteen retail shops will have holiday gifts for purchase.
Nazario Sandoval created curbside art boards helping customers to see who is offering carryout and pickup services.
The city is offering free two-hour parking in Nob Hill, as well as Old Town and Downtown, during December.
Last week, the city announced the cancellation of such city-sponsored community gatherings as the River of Lights display at the ABQ BioPark, the Twinkle Light Parade through Nob Hill, the ABQ Ride Luminaria Tour, the public Old Town tree-lighting ceremony and shop-and-stroll, and the New Year’s Eve Before Dark festivities.
City officials were looking into alternatives to provide family fun, while supporting the local economy. Sanchez said this effort will help.
And it’s not the only way the city will celebrate this winter.
A virtual tree-lighting will take place in Old Town at 6 p.m. Friday, and will be streamed via the One Albuquerque Media YouTube and Facebook pages.
“It’s a little bit of joy in an otherwise different holiday season,” Sanchez said.
Journal staff writer Jessica Dyer contributed to this report.