That’s the word Sara Holland, a 21-year-old senior attending Eastern New Mexico University, used to describe the second annual Carol of Lights that will introduce this year’s Christmas season Friday afternoon to Portales.
By the time the event concludes, more than 5,000 feet of campus sidewalk will glow with luminarias — paper bags anchored with sand and containing lighted candles.
“A lot of campuses do this,” Holland said. “It’s really magical. It caught us off guard last year not only to see the luminarias but the interaction” between the community and the university.
Holland is a member of the university’s President’s Ambassadors, a student organization.
A co-founder of the Carol of Lights, which began last year at the urging of the President’s Ambassadors, she said the luminarias provide a way for organizations and businesses in Portales to interact with students on campus.
Not only do they get together and make the luminarias for display, both the community and the university provide a musical program that’s free to the public, Holland said.
Between 3 and 5 p.m. Friday, luminarias will be assembled at the Campus Union Building.
The university’s Union Brass Quintet will start the musical performances at 4:45 p.m. That will signal all the groups who create the luminarias to approach the Dallan Sanders Plaza behind the CUB, where at 5 p.m., the program will begin.
Steve Gamble, ENMU president, will give a welcoming speech and Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega is scheduled to deliver a proclamation.
In addition, choirs from Portales Junior High School and Portales High School will sing Christmas carols along with the ENMU Swanee Singers.
Names of the Miss Merry Christmas candidates in Portales also will be announced, and so will the winners of door decorating contest on campus. Miss Merry Christmas is a pageant for young girls.
Cake, apple cider and hot chocolate will be served, Holland said.
Fifteen businesses and 19 campus organizations participated in last year’s event and organizers predict a similar turnout this year. Representatives of these groups will place the luminarias along campus sidewalks, where signs will designate who the sponsors are.
So far, there are 11 different groups from the community and 17 on-campus organizations participating in this year’s event.
Because the event last year was held on the coldest day of the year, Holland said only 50 or 60 people attended the ceremony. She expects this year’s attendance will be much higher.
“We really want to encourage people to come and see this,” Holland said.
Mayor Orlando Ortega said he will proclaim the Carol of Lights an event for the entire community.
“I think it’s exciting,” Ortega said. “It sets the tone for the holiday season and sets the mood for the community.”
Ortega also lauded the interaction the event brings between the university and the community and praised the members of the President’s Ambassadors for putting together the event.
“They did a great job last year and are very organized,” he said.
Dave Hunton of Hunton Insurance, who also serves on the Alumni Board of ENMU, said three or four participants from his agency will be involved.
“It’s just beautiful, it’s just gorgeous,” he said of last year’s event. “It’s kind of neat to see everybody work together to come up with something like that.”