Driver Shelley Karlson, her son Aiden (blue shirt) and nephew Ryder Olson get their photos taken at the “photo opportunity” preceding their drive through the Magical Mesa light show. Shelley said, “It was beautiful — we had a really good time.” They drove here from Albuquerque on Wednesday evening to enjoy the spectacle at the Rio Rancho Events Center. Gary Herron photo.

If Clark Griswold of “Christmas Vacation” movie fame lived in the City of Vision and had his way, this is what he’d create: “A Magical Mesa Xmas.”
It’s at the Rio Rancho Events Center, and it’s a drive-thru holiday light spectacular, going on through Jan. 17.
Presented by Sparklight, this Magical Mesa “combines the joy of the holidays with the thrill of a world-class light show,” according to the event center website. “Event partner Red Shovel Landscaping brings its years of live light show experience to this year’s event and has been constructing the set designs since early November.”
You’ll find too-many-to-count LED lights — they say millions of them — across the event. And there is a spot to stop and get a photo of your vehicle — you can roll down the window and wave — that will be texted to your phone.
As they enter, motorists tune their radio the proper station with holiday tunes, according to the website. The first stop is a classic holiday light exhibit with trees and snow.
Other exhibits include a cityscape, balloon display and life-sized snow globe, according to the website.
A Magical Mesa Xmas runs through Jan. 17 from 5:30-11 p.m. nightly, with guests advised to use Broadmoor Boulevard and Paseo del Volcan to enter.
Tickets can be purchased online at MagicalMesa.com or at the gate for $40 per vehicle.
Group tickets are available at a discounted price. To purchase group tickets, call 891-7319.
For updates on the event, visit RioRanchoEventsCenter.com or MagicalMesa.com.

Landscaping and holiday lights?
Yeah, agrees Red Shovel Landscaping owner and president Kenny Grebe, of Corrales, landscaping and holiday lights are an unusual combination of business ventures.
But he wanted to keep his employees on board during the seasonal lull in the landscaping business.
In business for 15 years, Red Shovel Landscaping, 9100 Second St. in northwest Albuquerque, began putting up holiday lights about 12 years ago, Grebe said.
Retaining his loyal employees has been that important, he said, which “we’ve done so successfully over the years.
“This year has been concerning to us, because most of the businesses (that ordered our lights) were shut down. So we lost 99 percent of our client base — and it happened over night,” he said.
Grebe estimated a 23 percent dip in the winter sidelight.
“At the present moment, it is a gamble for us,” when it comes to showing a profit from the Rio Rancho event, he said.
“I’m hoping to supplement what we lost — hopefully the community will come out and enjoy it,” he said. “We’ve got probably a thousand man hours in the assembly of it… it’s over a quarter-million (dollars’) of materials we have out there now.”
The 2020 landscaping business was better than usual for Red Shovel, Grebe said, thanks in part to the pandemic.
“We have had more business, because people have been home,” he said. “They’re re-investing that into their home — outside spaces that are comfortable and inviting for them to be in.”
But when it comes to lighting up for the holidays, the pandemic has had the opposite effect: Stores and eateries that normally would have welcomed lighting up their places have been closed.
“We were already kind of anticipating a loss of revenue this year because of shutdowns,” Grebe said. “I had been doing some modeling, with the intention of putting together an event.”
Possibilities with Cottonwood Mall and Winrock didn’t pan out, but a friend recommended getting in touch with the City of Rio Rancho, which had hoped to do a light show for residents. Until that call, Grebe said he’d “laid it to rest — it’s not in the cards for us.”
As it turned out, it was back in the cards and up and running in the City of Vision since the first week of December.
“We really wanted to do something for the community,” said Alex Archuleta, assistant general manager/director of marketing for the events center, who estimated 350 vehicles had rolled through the Magical Mesa in its first five days of operation.
“This really can be something that becomes a tradition for families,” Grebe said. “They want family time — I would be very pleased if that’s something we could institute in Rio Rancho for years to come. It’s enjoyable, memorable and could become a family tradition. But it will have to be successful and draw well — we have to have people come out.”

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Gary Herron | Observer staff writer