November 23, 2011

Experience
News-Bulletin

ay lid o H

VALENCIA COUNTY

2 • Holiday Experience • Valencia County News-Bulletin • November 23, 2011

La Gran Pastorela de Belen brings Biblical story to life
By Julia M. DenDinger
News-Bulletin Staff Writer jdendinger@news-bulletin.com

Belen In its 39th season, La Gran Pastorela de Belen will once again tell the age old story of the Devil attempting to stop los pastores, the shepherds, on their journey to see the newborn baby Jesus — a miracle told to them in the countryside by the Archangel Michael. With grandiose claims of ownership over the sun and the moon and the stars, the Devil tries to convince them that he can offer something better than the blessing of the newborn Christ child. Ultimately, the angel defeats the devil and the shepherds arrive at the manger, bearing gifts and singing the Messiah’s praises. As the play closes in on its fourth decade, director Filomena Baca said she is hoping to let the responsibility of the play fall to others soon. “It’s time to turn it over. I think 40 years sounds like a good time to stop,” Baca said. “But we’ll see. I’m thankful we have enough dedicated people to carry it on, but we need more young people.” Before the production was revived in 1972, Baca said the last pastorela performed in Valencia County was in 1929. “My mother, uncle and aunt were in the performance,” she said. “They told how much fun it was, so I was interested. My mother told me she performed with people from Las Nutrias and they would go from village to village.” In the early 1970s, the Belen parish needed a fundraiser for a new church. Baca thought a pastorela would be the perfect function, but didn’t know where to start. “A man in the choir, Prudence Sanchez, helped me get started. He was the first Devil,” she said. “He was very spiritual, but he could play bad so good.” Then they needed a script. Baca

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo

GILA, played by Sheri Armijo, left, and Mary, portrayed by Brittany Molina, right, are two of many actors in the 39th season of La Gran Pastorela de Belen. The first performance will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 27, at Belen Meadows. A complete list of scheduled performances is on Page 5.

began asking around and finally found a man in Las Nutrias who had a handwritten script from the 1929 performance. “My mother was related to the man’s brother-in-law,” she said. “I stayed up late, usually past midnight, for a week typing the script. It was old, watermarked, hard to read. I had to guess at some of the words.” Her mother taught the performers the original songs from the 1929 produc-

tion. Baca says this is one thing that distinguishes the pastorela of Belen from others around the state. “Ours are the songs that they taught to others,” she said. What started out as a one-time fundraiser has now become a Christmas tradition of almost four decades “We do it to remind people of the spiritual aspect of the season, and it was part of our culture being lost,” Baca said. “After that first year, people called

and asked us to do it again. People are really hungering for it.” Baca remembers when they first began performing the all-Spanish language play, the members of the audience knew the lines and sang along. All the songs in La Gran Pastorela de Belen are in Spanish except one, and all the dialogue is in Spanish, Baca said. And it’s the old Spanish, which makes

n See Pastorela, Page 3

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November 23, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Holiday Experience • 3

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THE DEVIL, portrayed by Joe Salazar, left, in La Gran Pastorela de Belen, tries to convince the shepherds he has more to offer than the blessings of the newborn baby Jesus.

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4 • Holiday Experience • Valencia County News-Bulletin • November 23, 2011

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo

RUDY ZAMORA, left, a deacon at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church, plays the character, Bartolo, while Emilio Torres, right, portrays Bato, in La Gran Pastorela de Belen.

La Gran Pastorela de Belen 2011 Performance Schedule
Sunday, Nov. 27: 3 p.m., Belen Meadows, Belen Tuesday, Nov. 29: 7 p.m., Holy Ghost Church, 927 Arizona St. SE, Albuquerque Saturday, Dec. 3: 7 p.m., Harvey House Museum, Belen Sunday, Dec. 4: 6 p.m., Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church, Belen Saturday, Dec. 10: 5:30 p.m., St. Anne’s Catholic Church, 1400 Arenal Road, SW, Albuquerque Sunday, Dec. 18: 1 p.m., Garcia Opera House, 110 Abeyta Ave. West, Socorro

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Pastorela: Original script at UNM-VC
filmed the performance in local fields and New Mexico Magazine sent a photographer, who shot slides. A copy of the tape and the slides, as well as a copy of the original script Baca and her group worked from in 1972, are housed at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus for future generations to study.

That first year the play reemerged, a committee at one of the Santa Fe museums had a grant to study traditional cultural programs. “The woman who was in charge of the grant was a young woman from Belen,” Baca said. “She told her mother she needed to find a project.” To document the play, UNM-TV

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November 23, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Holiday Experience • 5

Mariachi concert to bring holiday cheer for good cause

Submitted photo

MARIACHI TRADICIONAL will perform at the annual Mariachi Holiday Concert, which benefits the Los Lunas High School Band.

By Mike StearnS

News-Bulletin Staff Writer mstearns@news-bulletin.com

Los Lunas It will be a different type of performance this year when the sixth annual Mariachi Holiday Concert takes place at

the Los Lunas High School Auditorium. The first change will be the day of the week the concert is held as it will begin at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10. The concert, which benefits the Los Lunas High School band, has traditionally been held on Friday.

Although the music is so traditional that the performing mariachi group is known as Mariachi Tradicional, concert organizer Pedro Rael explained that the concept behind the concerts is unique to any other performance in the way the artists tell a story with a theme instead of

just performing selected songs. “We get our money’s worth,” Rael said. “These guys are extremely good. We always end with ‘Feliz Naviad.’ It sounds fantastic.” Rael noted that the group is on stage throughout the two-hour concert, either

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6 • Holiday Experience • Valencia County News-Bulletin • November 23, 2011
from PAGE 5 as the featured artist or to provide the instrumental accompaniment for solo and duet presentations. “These guys are going to be up there the entire time,” said Rael of the main attraction. Another change this year is that the mariachi band will not have a marimba. They will also feature a harp, an instrument not included in most mariachi bands. Rael is impressed by the quality of musicians in the group as they quickly adapt to key changes and the pace of the show, particularly this year. The theme for this season will be Rancharitas music, a traditional New Mexican sound. Based on the fox trot beat, the music is more up-tempo than the variety of music from Mexico. The idea came from Rael’s upbringing in the early 1950s. “I love the mariachi music,” said Rael. “There were very few Anglo-Americans in the area. We would listen to the bands that play the fiestas. They play Rancharitas, which were in Spanish, but they were some of the same songs from the mariachi but as a fox trot. They would play slow songs fast.” The duet of Ramon Y Lydia will perform about a six-song set, concentrating on the Rancharitas style music. Arnoldo Arrieta will perform, as well as his

Mariachi: Organizer says Rancharitas is theme for holiday concert
daughter, Mayela Alejandro. Both have been crowd favorites at past concerts. Eight-year-old Kylie Tafoya will sing a solo, and Gabriella Villalobos and Jose Alfredo Carillo round out the main group of vocalists. Romano Enrique will make a special appearance. He has appeared at the annual event before. “He is a dynamite singer,” Rael said. “It got prohibitive to bring him over the ocean for just one show, but this year he happens to be here. We said, ‘Lets go.’” Music such as “Hey Baby, Que Paso?” and a duet that is more symphonic than traditional is on the program. The show will end with a recognizable Christmas tune played in the mariachi style. Ticket information can be obtained by calling 620-3428 or 865-6811. Tickets are available for $10 for upper row seating to $25 for the best seats in the house. Rael said that the $20 and $25 tickets were going fast and there was limited availability. The concert benefits the Los Lunas High School Band program and was set up in the beginning to help the group because Rael’s two daughters were in the program. The profits from the concert are the main fundraiser for the band throughout the year.

Submitted photo

ROMANO ENRIQUE, a crowd favorite, will be one of several performers at the annual Mariachi Holiday Concert at the LLHS auditorium.

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November 23, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Holiday Experience • 7

Miracle on Main Street
Ice skating rink and biscochito and pastelito baking contest new this year
By ABigAil R. ORtiz
News-Bulletin Staff Writer aortiz@news-bulletin.com

Belen After gobbling down slices of ovenroasted turkey, brown gravy drizzled over warm garlic mashed potatoes and homemade pumpkin pie, enjoy the holiday season with the community at the 24th annual Miracle on Main Street Light Parade and Christmas Festival in Belen. The festival, which begins at 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 26, will stretch from the Heart of Belen Plaza to Fifth Street along Becker Avenue. This year, a portable ice rink and biscochito and pastelito baking contest is being added to the festival’s events. The portable ice rink will be installed

in the Belen City Hall parking lot. Participants can skate for 30 minutes for $5, which includes the cost of rental ice skates. The rink will be open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 25, and Saturday, Nov. 26. The scent of freshly-baked biscochitos, cookies flavored with anise and cinnamon; and pastelitos, small, flat-baked pies filled with fruit and topped with sugar, will waft out to festival attendees. The contest begins at 3:30 p.m., but contestants should arrive at the festival by 2:30 p.m. “Everybody always knows somebody who makes the best biscochitos,” said Brenda Gurule, recreation director for the city of Belen. Gurule said she adds an activity to the yearly festival to promote the holiday season with local holiday events.

“We want to bring the community together to support the town and celebrate locally. Residents are able to enjoy this with their families after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday shopping season,” Gurule said. For those looking for one-of-a-kind gifts for loved ones on the Christmas list, the festival will feature local craft vendors. Hot chocolate and food vendors will accompany Christmas music for those looking to warm up on a winter day. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will make a surprise visit for photographs. Children can also take train rides along Becker Avenue and bounce around in jumping balloons while at the festival. The dessert contest is followed by presentations from S&A Dance Academy and Lori’s Boardwalk Gymnastics at 4 p.m., hot air balloons on Church and Main streets at 5 p.m., and marshmallow roasting by the Belen Fire Department on Becker Avenue and Sixth Street at 7 p.m. The annual electric light parade, beginning at 6 p.m., will march from

“We want to bring the community together...”
BRENDA GURULE Parks and Rec Director

the Belen Senior Center on South Main Street to Aragon Road. The Snow Queen and Snow Princess will be announced at 3 p.m., and will lead the parade along its route. This year, the race is between seven Snow Queen contestants and four Snow Princess contestants. The parade’s grand marshal, chosen for her love of Christmas, is Martha Trujillo from Belen Memorial Garden Cemetery. Trujillo decorates the cemetery each year with holiday decor, Gurule said. To enter a float into the parade, participants must incorporate lights on their float, pay a $10 entry fee and refrain from throwing goodies at bystanders. To preregister, contact the Belen Community Center at 966-2700.

News-Bulletin file photo

THE ANNUAL ELECTRIC LIGHT PARADE in the city of Belen is one of the most well attended events in the county.

8 • Holiday Experience • Valencia County News-Bulletin • November 23, 2011

Christmas in Los Lunas starts with parade and Santa
By DeBorah Fox
News-Bulletin Staff Writer dfox@news-bulletin.com

Los Lunas

Get into the community Christmas spirit at the annual Los Lunas Christmas Light Parade. The event is filled with sparkling lights and holiday cheer. It will begin at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3. This year, there is a new route so the parade will be a little bit longer. It will start at the Visitor’s Center, 3447 Lambros Loop at the “Y,” on the east side of the village, and end at Don Pasqual by the village administration building. The Los Lunas Police Department will lead the procession, which will close the street to through traffic for the duration of the festivities, which lasts about a couple of hours. There is no charge to enter a float in the parade, but there is an application to fill out online at www.loslunasnm.gov or at the visitor center. You can also call 3523584. To be eligible for the cash prizes, registration must be completed by 4 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2. Floats are expected to line up at the center, one hour before the parade begins. “I’ve already had a lot of inquiries this year,” said Kathy Martinez, village recreation supervisor. “We always have a pretty big turn-out.” There has been an average of 70 entries in the parade over the years, ranging from the high school marching bands, football teams and cheerleaders to dance groups, the VFW carrying the colors, the high schools’ JROTC marching band, Girls and Boys Scouts troops, Bosque Farms rodeo royalty, Sheriff’s Posse, Horse Riders of the Rio Grande, vintage car clubs, churches, the Valencia County Chamber of Commerce, village administration departments and many others. Last year there were 83 entries. “Everybody is welcome,” Martinez said. Each float will be announced as it passes the judges’ table, which will be set up at the fire department at Main Street and Don Diego. Local businesses generously donate the cash for the prizes that will be awarded for the best creativity and originality by category of float, such as best overall float, best horse group, best band, best youth group, best clown group and others. “It all depends on the type of floats that enter,” said Martinez. No Santa impersonators are allowed, however, the village Santa is the parade’s grand finale, who will ride at the end of the parade procession to wave to the children and spectators. Both Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be handing out free hot chocolate, candy and stockings the following Saturday, Dec. 10,

starting at 6 p.m. at the Daniel Fernandez Youth Center, 1103 N.M. 314. Children will be able to get their picture taken with Santa. There is a $2 fee for pictures to cover the cost of the film and paper. Christmas music will be playing, and the center will be decorated with a Christmas tree, an inflatable snowman and other decorations. “It looks real pretty,” Martinez said. “It makes a nice background for the pictures.” Patty Roberts and her mother, great nieces and nephews and even relatives from Albuquerque, have made the parade a family affair for the past 12 years. “I love the parade, I wish there were more of them,” Roberts said. “It’s just good family fun. It brings out the spirit of family and community, and that’s what Los Lunas is all about, I believe. “We’re growing, but we still have the small town feel,” she said. “I think that’s one of the best things about Los Lunas.” She recommends, “just get the kids, bundle up and come enjoy.” Street closings for the Christmas Light Parade will be at intersections on Main Street and include Appaloosa, N.M. 47, Lujan, Nancy, N.M. 263, Blue Bonnet, Mt. Laurel, Edeal, Carson, North and South Los Lentes, North and South Don Diego, North and South Luna, North and South N.M. 314, Sandoval, Calle De Las Familias, Sichler, and Don Pasqual. The roads will be closed promptly at 6:30 p.m. for about two hours.

November 23, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Holiday Experience • 9

Area law enforcement taking time to make season special
By Brent ruffner
News-Bulletin Staff Writer bruffner@news-bulletin.com

This holiday season, residents should expect to see local law enforcement out in force. But local law enforcement aren’t always fighting crime and taking bad guys off the streets. This time of year means emergency personnel are preparing to collect and distribute toys to area youth who are in need in each municipality and in the unincorporated areas of Valencia County. All five police agencies are contributing their part to the holiday season. In Belen, officers say personal donations from community members will count more in years past since money is tight for most families, especially during the holiday months. Belen Police Detective Sgt. Joe Portio said the department normally relies on businesses such as Walmart and Dollar General to come up with the bulk of toy donations this time of year. But this year could be different. “Our problem is that there are so many charities out there and actively seeking (donations) that we get less and less assistance,” Portio said. “...We aren’t getting the donations that we used to from the major businesses. So we are really counting on some personal donations from the public. This year is probably worse than any other year that we have been doing it.” Residents can make donations at the Belen Police Department, 607 Becker Avenue in Belen, during regular business hours. Families in need can go to the department and fill out an application that includes showing identification and proof of residency. In Belen, toys will be given to families on Friday, Dec. 16, at Belen City Hall. The deadline to apply for help is Friday, Dec. 9. Local police departments are request-

News-Bulletin file photo

SANTA CLAUS hands out toys every year to children during its Toys for Tots from Cops program. This year is no different. Families who wish to participate can pick up applications at the police station on Becker Avenue.

This Christmas Holiday...

Make

Belen

ing new toys that are non-clothing items for those that wish to donate to the respective departments. The Valencia County Sheriff’s Office is another agency that is involved in making the holidays a little better for area families. The department plans to distribute 25 n See Police, Page 10

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10 • Holiday Experience • Valencia County News-Bulletin • November 23, 2011
from PAGE 9

Police: Winter Ball and bowling
nity members are the ones that make the event possible. “The community does the program. All we do is collect (toys) and distribute them.” The Los Lunas Police Department will have two events: Cops and Kids Winter Ball on Friday, Dec. 2, and the Cops and Kids, a program that allows children to spend time with an officer and shop for toys for themselves. The Cops and Kids Winter Ball will be held at Daniel Fernandez Park from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and feature SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer and Tigger, along with children getting to meet and take a free picture with Santa Claus. Participants will be required to donate a canned or perishable food item at the door. On Saturday, Dec. 17, elementaryaged students will be paired up with officers for a fun-filled day of bowling and pizza. Afterwards, about 40 students will be allowed to spend $50 to $100 on themselves at a local store. “We want kids to able to trust their local law enforcement and feel comfortable with them,” said Rhonda Sanchez, secretary to the Los Lunas police chief. “We know, as law enforcement and going into the community, that people

food baskets for Thanksgiving and will hold a Toys for Tots from Cops event that helps children in need. Linda Corriz-Barreras, of the Valencia County Sheriff’s Department, said she will get an early start on collecting toys by shopping on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. She said residents who live in the county can fill out a form for assistance. The deadline to apply is Friday, Dec. 2. Those who want to donate can give gifts such as books, puzzles and board games. “I would like to ask for donations so that we don’t see a child go without,” Corriz-Barreras said. Bosque Farms Police Chief Greg Jones said staff from Peralta and Bosque Farms elementary schools will pick out donated toys for children in need at the schools. The following businesses will be accepting donations on behalf of the police department: Lodi’s Beads, Mommy N Me Children’s Boutique, Dollar General and Peralta Faithworks Boutique in Peralta. Any extra toys are expected to be distributed to the Valencia Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence. Fable Hoesch, clerk for the Bosque Farms Police Department, said commu-

News-Bulletin file photo

MR. AND MRS. CLAUS takes time out of their busy schedule last year to hand out goodies to children at Daniel Fernandez Park in Los Lunas.

are in need. This just isn’t an economical time that people are in need. People are in need all the time.” For more information on The Cops and Kids Winter Ball or “Cops and Kids,” call the Los Lunas Police

Department at 839-3855. Portio said he hopes the respective county departments can make a positive impact in the community. “We are just trying to make a better Christmas for these kids.”

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Celebrate the holidays with a little local music this season
The Valencia County Community Band is coming to town! No, it’s not Santa Claus, but have you ever heard Santa play a musical instrument? The three Valencia County Community Bands will be playing their Christmas and Holiday concerts in December in northern Valencia County. The all-volunteer bands — concert, dance and combo — are dedicated to bringing the joy of music to the communities of northern Valencia County. Each band has it’s own unique venue of music. All three bands will be playing at the Belen Public Library from 12:30 to 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3. They will also be performing at the Bosque Farms Community Center on Saturday, Dec. 10, along with several other musical groups. The Combo Band will be playing a Holiday/Winter Solstice Party from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 22, at the Center for Ageless Living on N.M. 47 in Los Lunas. All of these events are open to the public. If you were ever in a school band, or any other band for that matter, and if you are interested in playing your musical instrument again, consider joining the VCCB concert band. Band members are more than happy to help you get your musical skills working again. Many of the band members stopped

November 23, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Holiday Experience • 11

Submitted photo

THE VALENCIA COUNTY COMMUNITY BAND, in front, from left, are Joe Alefeld, Tonya Bush, Mike Chavez, Joanna Sanchez, Peggy Cox, Desiree Jones, Pete Scherer; and in back, from left, Tom Lobb, Charlie Wilson, Ed O’Toole, Joe Arvizu, Jeremy Callan, John Austin, Joel Jones. Not pictured is Shirley Scherer. playing after high school for 20 years or more, and they were pleasantly surprised how fast their skills returned. The same could happen for you. For information about band schedules or about joining VCCB, contact band conductor Joe Arvizu at 553-3371, or band president Desiree Jones at thevccb@gmail.com.

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12 • Holiday Experience • Valencia County News-Bulletin • November 23, 2011

Festival of Trees celebrate holiday traditions at Harvey House
By UngelBah Daniel-Davila
News-Bulletin Staff Writer udavila@news-bulletin.com

Belen “Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, you’re branches green delight us!” Filled with everything from vintage hair rollers to stuffed animals to bumble bees, the Festival of Trees at the Harvey House Museum will not only delight, it might also inspire a new look for your own tree this holiday season. “I want people to have a different reason to come to the Harvey House,” said Ronnie Torres, the organizer of the Festival of Trees, which is now in its second year. He said they had 30 trees last year, and this year he is anticipating 40, each one with a different theme, including, art, comic books, bumble bees, stuffed animals, and homages to Trembly’s Jewelry and Gil’s Bakery, to name a few. Some of the trees, such as the Gil’s Bakery evergreen, are repeats of last year in theme, but will be completely different and redone for this year’s festive foliage. “We want everything to look a little different from last year,” says Torres. “Every year, we want it to grow a little bit.” Torres said that the trees give people a new reason to visit the museum during the holiday season. When children come to see the trees and enjoy the season spirit, they also get to see the historic memorabilia in the museum, which helps them learn about history without feeling like they are doing anything less than fun. Torres and his volunteer group of decorators choose different themes for each Christmas tree and then decorate it to match, often using ordinary, recycled objects, such as old stuffed animals and comic books to bedazzle

bare branches. Trees are also created to go with the themes of each room at the museum, such as the one in the Gil’s Bakery room. The tree is decorated with flowers and wedding decorations, and instead of a star on top, it displays the bride and groom center piece off a wedding cake. Another tree that has been decorated to match the room it will be shown in is the retro salon inspired tree, which is decked out with mid-century hair curlers, combs and other salon accessories one might have seen in a beauty shop in the 1950s and ’60s. “It’s a great way to display your collections and give them a new life for the holidays,” said Torres, who said his love of the holiday led him to initiate the event last year. “I love Christmas and I know there are a lot of other people who do too,” he said, adding that he has different trees in every room of his own home this time of year, each one distinctive. “(The festival) gives you ideas how to change your trees at home.” He says anyone can make creative Christmas trees of their own to liven up their Christmas decor with items they already have, especially if they find a way to use their collections. “Everybody has a favorite something,” he said. “Find a favorite thing that you like and do it that way.” In a sense, the Festival of Trees is like a recycled art installation. Torres says he is always happy to take in ornaments and decorations people don’t want any more, as well as collections people have tired of. He said that anyone who is possessed by the yuletide spirit is welcome to help and that he can usually work with their schedules. The main objective is just to have fun, to bring out that good cheer that is known to
n See Trees, Page 13

Ungelbah Daniel-Davila-News-Bulletin photo

RONNIE TORRES, organizer of the Festival of Trees, stands by a decorated tree in the Gil’s Bakery room at the Harvey House Museum.

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November 23, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Holiday Experience • 13

THE SALON TREE, which is decorated in items such as hair curlers, combs, hair clips and perm rods, is on display in the salon room in the Harvey House Museum. This is just one of about 40 decorated trees that will be on display.

Ungelbah Daniel-Davila-News-Bulletin photos

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THE BUMBLE BEE TREE is decked out in stuffed, yellow and black bees as well as sunflowers and lights.

from PAGE 12

Trees: Decked halls; fun for all
items and more for sale, including small, decorated trees. The party is free to attend and all of the proceeds from the sale of the miniature Christmas trees will go to supplying more decorations for next year. There will also be a comic/action figure room for the enjoyment of youth and adults alike. The halls will be decked, the trees will be radiant, and the Christmas cheer will be thick as attendants wander the museum, admiring the plethora of one-of-akind pines this holiday season.

go along with the annual tradition of digging out ornaments from the year before, dusting them off and looking for that perfect bow that will show it off the best. For the sake of ease, the trees are synthetic, and for the day of the Harvey House Christmas celebration, several are moved downstairs to the lobby area for convenient viewing. The Harvey House Christmas party will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10. There will be crafts, jellies, art, baked goods, gift

Village of Los Lunas
660 Main Street NW/Don Pasqual & Main Street Phone (505) 839-3840 FAX (505) 352-3280
Robert Vialpando Mayor Councilors Cecilia CC Castillo Charles Griego Richard Lovato Gerard Saiz

Shop Valencia County This Holiday Season and All Year Round

Balloon rally aimed at getting more residents involved
By Jason W. Brooks
News-Bulletin Staff Writer jbrooks@news-bulletin.com

14 • Holiday Experience • Valencia County News-Bulletin • November 23, 2011

Belen A balloon rally in Belen is trying to build a tradition by getting more Valencia County people involved. The Miracle Balloon Rally and Glow, a pair of hot air balloon events, will accompany Belen’s Miracle on Main Street celebration Saturday, Nov. 26. A mass ascension is set for about 7 a.m. at Eagle Park, and a balloon glow near the Wells Fargo building will be held at about 5:30 p.m. The third-annual event, sort of a late fall counterpart to the St. Patrick’s Day Balloon Rallye, will have around 25 balloons at both the morning and evening events. According to Grant Crawford of the Valencia County Flying and Retrieval Society, the same pilots generally can’t be kept around from the morning events, so it won’t be the same group at the evening glow. Crawford said plenty of county people can get involved in the events, especially the mass ascension. Chase crews and other volunteer help is needed in getting balloons off the ground and back to Earth safely. “People don’t realize how much there is to ballooning,” said Crawford, who’s been flying for 32 years. “There’s a lot to do. But flying in the early morning keeps some folks away. “If it were two hours later, everyone would do it, but we have to fly when the wind is the lightest and that’s at dawn.” The third annual Miracle Balloon Rally won’t have an admission price for spectators, but donations of cash, non-perishable food or other items for the Valencia Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence will be accepted. Crawford said many people have been instrumental in getting the event up and running the past few years. Former Belen mayor Ronnie Torres was supportive in the initial 2010 event, Crawford said. Current Belen Mayor Rudy Jaramillo took a balloon ride, he said, and that was all that was needed to make Jaramillo enthusiastic about supporting a rally and glow. Belen Recreation Director Brenda Gurule has gone above and beyond in helping arrange things, Crawford said. He spent several minutes listing the main types of help she has provided for the mass ascension. The St. Patrick’s Rallye relocated from Los Lunas in the spring of 2010 due in part to new cost assessments,

News-Bulletin file photo

ABOUT 25 HOT AIR BALLOONS on the soccer field at Eagle Park are expected for each part of the Miracle Balloon Rally on Saturday, Nov. 26. There will be a 7 a.m. mass ascension and a balloon glow near the Wells Fargo building at about 5:30 p.m.

and the Miracle Ballon Rally is the fall companion on the ballooning schedule. Crawford expects pilots from as far away as Farmington, Las Cruces, Amarillo and Tucson. Crawford said he buys balloon fuel and covers travel fuel expenses for all pilots, and Jaramillo’s restaurant, Rutilio’s, feeds them. The pilots’ only expense is their time, and they love to fly anyway, he said. One of the many popular balloons expected is the Smoky Bear balloon, to be brought in by Bill Chappell of Albuquerque. “This part of the valley is really nice for ballooning,” he said. “Especially if the wind steers you away from the agricultural areas.” He said Belen is an improvement for pilots over Los Lunas, which is nestled between the restricted airspaces of Isleta Pueblo and the Central New
n See Balloons, Page 15A

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November 23, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Holiday Experience • 15
from PAGE 14

Balloons: Flying

Mexico Correctional Facility. Crawford said there isn’t really a launch director for the events. However, many of the pilots, including Don Boyer of Belen, known as a “Balloonmeister,” are veterans of ballooning, seasoned in determining if weather conditions allow for safe flying. “Each pilot can assess for themselves if they’re comfortable with things being safe enough for a flight,” he said. The glow requires lower wind speeds, he said. Any event in which balloons are tethered, anchored to the ground, cannot be done safely with anything more than the slightest breeze. “With tethering, you have sevenstory balloons near each other and power lines and everything else,” said Crawford. “You can’t have wind over about five miles per hour for that.”

News-Bulletin file photo

BALLOONS INFLATE on the soccer field at Eagle Park at a previous rally. The Miracle Balloon Rally is set for Saturday, Nov. 26, in Belen.

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16 • Holiday Experience • Valencia County News-Bulletin • November 23, 2011

Shopping within Valencia County benefits you in many ways. Local tax revenue supports our schools, roads, police and fire departments.
It strengthens local jobs and businesses... shop local first and help our community grow!
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