Augusta Liddic/The Daily TimesBenjamin Denney, a student at Animas Elementary, puts down a completed luminaria at San Juan College on Tuesday, Nov. 27,
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times Benjamin Denney, a student at Animas Elementary, puts down a completed luminaria at San Juan College on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (Augusta Liddic)
FARMINGTON — Nearly 200 elementary school children gathered at San Juan College Tuesday afternoon to help in one of the region's most popular holiday traditions the luminarias display.

The college's 34th annual display will open to the public on Saturday at 6 p.m.

This week, volunteers are busily filling 20,000 paper bags with sand and candles, another 20,000 luminarias will be electric.

"All of the hard work, it's worth it," said Shawna Jameson, the college's student government vice president. "The whole community gets to enjoy it."

Last year, rain and snow ripped the bags and the display was canceled, Jameson said.

This week's weather is expected to be partly cloudy with no precipitation.

The 2012 luminarias display is made up of 20,000 traditional candle-lit bags for use on the ground and the electric ones will be used along rooftops, said Marcia Sterling-Penn, the college's student activities director.

This year, the college is offering a new service to those interested in a walking tour of the display, a free park and ride service through Red Apple Transit. The trolley leaves from Piedra Vista High School and runs from 6-8 p.m.

College President Toni Pendergrass, the Board of Trustees, Mayor Tommy Roberts and state, county and city officials will lead the first trolley through the display, Sterling-Penn said.

"I would say as far as walking or driving, it's a much more beautiful walking," she said. "There's a lot of energy you don't get driving through. You'll see whole families out."

People who will walk can also park in the Quality Center for Business or Child and Family Development Center lots, accessible by traveling south on College Boulevard from Pinon Hills Boulevard.

Motorists are asked enter the college from Butler Avenue traveling north to Sunrise Parkway, Sterling-Penn said. A marked route will lead through campus and exit at College Boulevard. Traffic will be required to turn south to 30th Street.

The Pinon Hills Boulevard entrance to the college will be closed.

All drivers are asked to turn their lights off as they drive through the display.

The luminarias display was funded through the college's Community Events Account, Sterling-Penn said. Supplies cost about $13,000 including school buses for the elementary school volunteers and publicity for Saturday's event.

Mary's Kitchen will offer snacks and beverages for visitors through 8 p.m. and the college's radio station, KSJE 90.9 FM, will broadcast Christmas carols. Weather permitting, the Planetarium will host its annual Star Gaze from 6-9:30 p.m.

"I'm pretty sure we have people come out all the way from the Navajo Reservation too," said student ambassador Korey Mike. "It's a lot of fun, and it's been an interesting experience planning."