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FARMINGTON – Thousands of tiny candles lit up the San Juan College campus Saturday night during one of the largest luminaria displays in the world.

The display featured 20,000 luminarias on the ground and 10,000 electric luminarias on the roofs, according to Marcia Sterling-Penn, the college's student activities director.

Sterling-Penn said the 37th annual display is the largest in New Mexico.

"We started setting out the bags on Tuesday, and we finished today around 11:30 (a.m.)," she said.

After setting out the bags, volunteers went and lit the candles at dusk.

Dusk is what Sterling-Penn describes as the "magic time" when the luminarias really start to illuminate the campus.

Kathie Mefford, who is a sign language interpreter, had not heard of luminarias before she went to the SJC campus earlier in the week with Country Club Elementary School to translate for a first-grade student who helped classmates set up the luminarias.

She returned Saturday to see what it would look like lit up.

"It's amazing what you can do with dirt, paper bags and a candle," she commented.

Farmington resident Brittany Duncan remembers attending the luminaria display when she was a child, and on Saturday, she took her children.

Her daughter, Ruby, 3, and son, Gavin, 5, ran in circles with her, leaping over the bags and being careful not to knock any of them over.

"It's just something different and fun," Duncan said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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