Bugg Lights Museum in Belen prepares for final holiday display
BELEN, N.M. — There are just a few weeks left to experience a piece of New Mexico Christmas history.
The Bugg Lights Museum in Belen is a treasure trove of decorations and displays – some dating as far back as the 1970s. However, the volunteers who keep the lights on say it’s time for them to move on.
It was more than 50 years ago when the Bugg family took Christmas to a new level in Albuquerque with a collection of handmade displays and elaborate lights.
Albuquerque city leaders forced the Bugg family to give up their annual display in 2002 after complaints from neighbors, but the collection lived on – moving from city to city until it found a new, somewhat permanent home in Belen.
Ronnie Torres is one of the museum curators who helped expand the collection. He says it takes an entire month for volunteers to set up the nearly two dozen light displays outside.
“I love Christmas, and I love doing all this stuff, especially because you see the kids come in, and one of the reasons that we did this, and we’ve felt very strong as we keep it free for the public,” he said.
Torres says the city pays all of the bills so that everyone can feel the holiday spirit.
“We had one year that this gentleman came in, he had about six kids, and he asked, ‘How much was that?’ I said it’s free. And you could just tell that they didn’t have that much money,” Torres said. “When they walked out, he whispered at me, and he says, ‘Thank you so much.” And I knew it meant that he was happy that he was able to take his kids out, he was able to how them a good time. And it didn’t cost him anything.”
Torres says stories like that make it so much harder to step away after nine years of making magic.
“I want to be able to spend some time with my family now,” he said. “Christmas Eve, there’s been no Christmas Eve where you spend time with your family on Christmas Day or whatever, because we’ve always been here.”
Come January, Torres says they’re donating most of the newer decorations to the city, and returning the older ones back to the Bugg family.
But they’re inviting everyone to come enjoy one last holiday stroll.
“It makes people happy for a while,” he said. “They forget about politics, they forget about their problems, they forget about everything and they just look at it. It brings back the inner child and puts a twinkle back in their eye. And that’s, that’s what we want.”
The Bugg Lights Museum is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. through New Year’s Eve.
Torres said it’s the last time to experience the museum in its full glory, but he suggested the Bugg family might bring back their household display in Albuquerque – so it could be the start of a new chapter.