BELEN — Belen — rich with traditions — literally lights up during the holidays with its annual Miracle on Main Street parade and event.
This year’s festivities will continue on with the tradition but with a few tweaks, including a change of when it will be held and the route of the electric light parade.
The Miracle on Main Street event and parade, which has always been held on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, will be held this year on Saturday, Dec. 17.
The parade route has also changed. Historically, the holiday-themed floats and other participants, traveled nearly the whole stretch of Main Street — starting at the Belen Business Center south of Camino del Llano to Aragon Road.
This year’s parade route will again begin on South Main Street but will hang a right at Becker Avenue and continue on to Second Street. The time of the parade has also changed to 5 p.m.
Joshua Kerns, the city’s economic development director, said there are a couple of reasons for the changes.
“We moved it for safety of the event and for staff morale,” Kerns said. “With the parade always being the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we have to bring (in) so many of our (city) staff with parks and recreation, streets, police and fire … (to) work on a day that is in the middle of a four-day holiday weekend.”
Kerns said with the city-run event being held on that particular weekend, staff hasn’t been able to go out of town to visit family for Thanksgiving and enjoy themselves.
In the last two years, the city began a new tradition with a Christmas Light Show on Becker Avenue. Many residents and visitors alike enjoyed driving down the street to enjoy holiday lights, decorations, inflatables and more.
“Moving the parade to the same day as our Christmas Light Show, we can get it back to the Miracle on Main Street event … as it was before,” Kerns said, “but we also get to have it fully staffed for safety concerns.”
Kerns also hopes to attract those who are typically out of town during the Thanksgiving weekend to attend and even participate in the Hub City holiday experience in December.
“Having an all-day festival will also draw more people to the event,” he said. “If people do not like the cold, they can go during the day to dance, eat, shop, watch the parade and then head home or, if they can handle the cold, they can stay after the parade and dance.”
The idea of an annual electric light parade in the Hub City was that of Ronnie Torres and his then-wife, Barbara, nearly four decades ago.
It was 36 years ago when they took a trip to Disneyland and attended an electric light parade. They came home with a plan to bring the concept of a similar parade to Belen.
“We knew we had to do something like that in Belen,” Torres remembers. “We talked with Kandy Cordova, who was president of the chamber of commerce at that time. We asked them, and they agreed. We had 17 floats that first year.”
Torres said everyone was trying to figure out how to light up the floats and how to make sure the lights stayed on.
“I remember one person actually put up real luminarias on their float and they started to burn on the parade route,” said Torres. “We knew we couldn’t do that again.”
As for the changes to the annual event and parade, Torres, a former Belen mayor and city councilor, respects the city’s decision to make changes to the annual event.
“Things have changed a little bit since I’m no longer a part of it,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to let go, let it happen and let things progress because it can’t always be as it once was. I hope it turns out good, and I wish them the best.”
When asked if some might be upset that the tradition is changing, the former mayor said change is hard.
“It’s evolving into a different event, and sometimes you need to do that to keep growing,” Torres said. “It’s got to evolve, and it’s hard to see it change when we’ve had it a certain way for so long. You just have to trust that the powers that be know what they’re doing.
“And Joshua (Kerns) really loves Christmas,” Torres said. “He’s a crazy nut about it, although no one can like it more than me.”
Torres, who is the coordinator of the Bugg Lights Museum on Becker Avenue, said the grand opening of the historic Christmas display will continue to be on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, which will be on Nov. 26.
“We want people who are here that weekend to have something to do and enjoy it,” Torres said.
This year’s tentative schedule for the Miracle on Main Street event is on Saturday, Dec. 17, starting with the Toys for Tots distribution from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. The festival is from 1-9 p.m., with live music, shops open, pictures with Santa or the Grinch. The parade will be begin at 5 p.m.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.