ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – The River of Lights is a stunning display of light sculptures at the ABQ BioPark Botanical Garden. A three-man crew is behind the colorful illuminated displays that are placed throughout the area. Artists and craftspeople work all year round to create and build new exhibitions.
Joey Trujillo, employee of the New Mexico BioPark Society, went from horticulture to artist at the ABQ Botanical Garden. “I’ve been doing River of Lights probably for about 18 to 17 years,” Trujillo said. He started with a 3D sculpture of a T-Rex. He has since made hundreds more that are popular with children and adults. “The Brontosaurus is our biggest chunk… he’s about 56 feet long and the top of his head is 30 feet high. We call it a ton because it literally weighs a ton, ”Trujillo said.
Some of his designs can take two months or more to complete. “We’ll go to the zoo and talk to some of the keepers. We will see some of the dimensions of the foot and the size of the body and they will give me all the measurements, ”said Trujillo. We start from there and we will come back here and try to get as close as possible. ”
Levi Swartz quit his job as a 911 operator a decade ago to help year round with the River of Lights. Over the years he has learned to weld.
Swartz’s doodle on a notepad is now a sculpture that stands out along the trail. Swartz and Bucky Bomaster make sure every sculpture is strategically lit.
The crew even gives the impression that their artwork is running, jumping, flying and munching. “I think there are eight different cheetahs in the race modes and a flashing sequence to make it look like he’s actually running on the ground,” Bomaster said.
The three-person team agree that they have one of the coolest jobs in town. “We’ve been doing this for a long time together. Joey has been here the second longest with me, and then Levi has been here for about ten years now. But we get along really well together, ”said Bomaster.
The three spend each night in River of Lights flipping switches and secretly receiving comments.
The River of Lights runs from November 27 to December 30 (closed December 24 and 25). Tickets will be sold in limited quantities and online only.