Thousands expected at Plaza lighting ceremony

Nov. 24—City crews began preparing Nov. 1 for Santa Fe's holiday season kickoff, hanging about 30,000 LED lights on Plaza trees.

Officials hope to see thousands of residents gather at the downtown park Friday evening to watch Mayor Alan Webber flip the switch.

The annual celebration of lights begins at 5:15 p.m. with live performances and refreshments. And, just before the mayor illuminates the Plaza, The New Mexican will introduce its 10 Who Made a Difference volunteer award winners for 2022.

The newspaper's nearly 40-year-old holiday awards program honors community people who selflessly dedicate their time to making Northern New Mexico better and stronger.

"We think that, at a time so often marked by trouble and pessimism, that highlighting what's best in the hearts of everyday people powers communities to excel and be their best selves," said Henry Lopez, The New Mexican's creative marketing and digital director. "The city of Santa Fe has been so gracious in letting us integrate the 10 Who Made a Difference in the Plaza lighting.

"This came about from an idea about how to honor these folks publicly in 2021 when COVID-19 was an even more pressing concern people had than they might have right now," Lopez added.

He said this is the first time the newspaper has given a 10 Who

Made a Difference award posthumously. Michaelann Perea, a community volunteer, died during a charity bicycle ride

Sept. 7.

"Including Michaelann Perea as our first posthumous honoree really seemed right as she was undoubtedly one of this community's shiniest stars," Lopez said. "The loss of her life is a loss for this whole community. Perhaps we can find inspiration in her example."

Perea's family and other

10 Who Made a Difference honorees will take the stage at 5:45 p.m. Friday, following performances from Bells of St. Francis, the Santo Niño Choir and the Legacy of Santa Fe Band.

The lighting ceremony is set to begin at 6:15 p.m.

Santa and Mrs. Claus are expected to make an appearance on a vintage firetruck and Girl Scout Troop 10651 will provide hot chocolate and cookies.

City Clerk Kristine Bustos-

Mihelcic said food truck vendors also will be offering refreshments throughout the event.

The annual celebration brought 6,000 to 7,000 people to the Plaza before the pandemic, Bustos-Mihelcic said, and she hopes the city reaches those numbers again this year.

"It's such a fun, community-

focused event," Bustos-Mihelcic said. "We see so many families — so many. Just people who really look at this as an annual tradition for them."