ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Saturday kicked off a beloved Albuquerque holiday tradition as the gates opened at the ABQ Botanic Garden for the River of Lights. The opening was sold out with a record-breaking 6,400 people.

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It is just a beautiful calm night to come see more than 600 displays scattered throughout the garden. Saturday night, Mayor Tim Keller flipped the switch, turning on millions of lights.

The River of Lights started small back in 1997 as a fundraiser for the BioPark. It has now grown to have hundreds of unique displays that were all created and built at the park.

As people stroll through the garden, one-of-a-kind treats are available. The executive chef has come up with some unique creations like chocolate chip waffle sandwiches and giant pretzels.

“It’s amazing to see the crowds back out and we’re so excited to welcome everybody back. I think this year has taught us that family and these traditions are so important and we’re so grateful to be one of those traditions for New Mexico,” said Event Director Taylor Pelligrini.

There are more than 200 miles of twinkle lights scattered throughout the garden and crews use more than 100,000 zip-ties each year. Families KRQE spoke to Saturday have made this a yearly tradition, and they’re thankful it has fully returned since the pandemic started.

“We are really happy to be here. We brought our mother-in-law to show her something special about New Mexico,” said Sandra Soltero.

Organizers say the River of Lights was at half-capacity on Sunday night and there is still ticket availability throughout the week. Tickets need to be purchased online. They are timed tickets and only 1,600 people will be allowed in each hour. The River of Lights runs through December 30.