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UNM-Gallup's Holiday in New Mexico makes successful return

Two giant wreaths on the facade of Gurley Hall welcome guests to The University of New Mexico-Gallup Holiday in New Mexico event Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.

UNM-Gallup's Holiday in New Mexico makes successful return


Categories: Students   Faculty   Staff   Community  


By Richard Reyes | Friday, Dec. 9, 2022

Branch campus keeps the late Marilee Petranovich’s tradition and memory alive

GALLUP, N.M. ― The University of New Mexico-Gallup hosted more than 800 community members on campus and lit up more than 1,000 luminarias for its eighth Holiday in New Mexico event Thursday, Dec. 1.

Holiday in New Mexico has become a modern tradition at UNM-Gallup. It started in 2013 as the brainchild of the late Marilee Petranovich, who worked as the senior public relations specialist. The event was put on hold for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic but made its successful return to campus this year.

Mrs. and Mr. Santa Claus, aka Tina and Robert Griego, make their grand entrance into Gurley Hall during The University of New Mexico-Gallup Holiday in New Mexico event Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Photo Credit: Delbert Damon/Del Ray Photography

“This year’s event was fun, magical and filled with excitement,” Senior Web Designer Carmen Wellborn, who coordinated the Holiday event, said. “After only two months of preparation, everything worked so well, and I am really happy that our Gallup community was able to enjoy our event.”

About a dozen student clubs and UNM-Gallup departments participated in the event along with more than a dozen community partners.

UNM-Gallup participants included the Student Nursing Association; the Zollinger Library; the Business and Applied Technology, Community Education and Workforce Development Division; the SkillsUSA Chapter; TRIO Student Support Services; TRIO Upward Bound; the Lobos Chess Club; the Multimedia Club; the Asian Culture Club; the Accessibility Resource Center; the Public Relations Department; and the Art Student Collective.

“I would like to give a big shout out to all of the wonderful faculty and staff who made last night’s event such a big success,” UNM-Gallup Interim Chancellor Sabrina Ezzell said the day after the event. “It was very heart-warming to see so many families and community members on our campus enjoying time together. Thank you to everyone who made last night such a memorable and meaningful experience!”

The Holiday event also coincided with the UNM-Gallup Art Student Exhibition, which featured several drawings, pottery and jewelry.

“I am proud of all of the fine arts students who volunteered to help with this event,” Lecturer Kristi Wilson said. “It was wonderful to share their work with the community in the Art Student Exhibition!”

Clubs and departments hosted games and activities throughout the night. They also helped set up about 1,200 luminarias throughout the campus, making this year’s display the largest in UNM-Gallup’s history.

The Home Depot store in Gallup also donated about $600 worth of string lights that were used to illuminate more trees than ever on campus.

The UNM-Gallup facilities and custodial staff were instrumental in decorating the campus and preparing the logistics of the event.

UNM-Gallup leadership — including Ezzell; Dean of Instruction Daniel Primozic; Director of Student Affairs Jayme McMahon; Director of Business Operations Robert Griego; and the four division chairs Ann Jarvis, John Zimmerman, Lewis Gambill and Alok Dhital — also got involved by welcoming and counting guests at the front entrance of Gurley Hall. They tallied a total of 819 attendees.

“I was amazed at the amount of people that came to the event,” Zollinger Library Director Markos Chavez said. “I'm glad we were able to reach so many people and have very positive interactions with the community. I'm thrilled that I was able to be part of this tradition and work with others on campus to see this through. It really brought us together on campus and closer to the community.”

Community partners included Strengthening Nations Inc.; Gallup Service Mart; the Octavia Fellin Public Library; gallupARTS/ART123; McKinley County Sheriff’s Office; Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico; Gallup Fire Department; Balanced Health 4 Life; and Four Corners Detox Recovery Center.

Southwest Food Excellence prepared 600 bowls of posole for the event, BombDiggity’s prepared 660 biscochitos, and Earl’s Restaurant donated more than 30 gallons of hot chocolate – all of which were given out to attendees for free. The Jim Sayers Band and Jean Paul VanDerdys Vidal performed music live.

And, of course, Mr. and Mrs. Claus met with children throughout the evening to hear their holiday wishes and collect their colorful letters.

Jean Paul VanDerdys Vidal performs music live inside Gurley Hall during The University of New Mexico-Gallup Holiday in New Mexico event Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Photo Credit: Delbert Damon/Del Ray Photography

“Hosting this heartwarming event is an amazing experience,” TRIO/Student Support Services Director Kimimila Simms said. “Seeing the people’s faces light up for Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause, all the crafts and games, the lights and the luminarias brings so much Christmas cheer you can’t help but feel that too.”

In addition to Wellborn, Wilson, Jarvis, Chavez and Simms, members of the Holiday in New Mexico Planning Committee included Administrative Assistant to the Dean and Chancellor Tina Griego; Physical Plant Manager Ron Petranovich; Custodial Services Supervisor Andrew Tekala; SkillsUSA Chapter Secretary Brianna Begay; TRIO/SSS Student Office Assistant Tiffany Armijo; TRIO/SSS Student Success Specialist/Tutor Coordinator Donovan Chee; Financial Aid Officer Deanza Thompson; Senior Student Success Specialist Grace Lueras; Lobo Louie Coordinator Jacob Armijo; and Senior Public Relations Specialist Richard Reyes.

“The UNM-Gallup students, faculty and staff that helped organize the event were amazing,” Wellborn said. “Everyone wanted to collaborate and contribute with wonderful ideas on how to make this event better than ever.”

“We have the best group of students, staff and faculty both on the committee and who just helped in areas the night of that made the entire event fabulous and fun,” Tina Griego said. “And not just the night of, but all the days leading up to the event.”

Marilee Petranovich, who died of cancer in September 2019, created and organized the first Holiday in New Mexico event in 2013. UNM-Gallup previously celebrated an event known as Holiday Magic for several years prior to that, but Marilee Petranovich was key in bringing the spirit of the season back to campus.

“Marilee Petranovich was a hard worker and an excellent event planner,” Wellborn said. “For the Holiday in New Mexico event, from the beginning in 2013, she created a strong structure that we are still using today. I learned so much from Marilee, mostly on thinking positive no matter the circumstances. She spread lots of enthusiasm for this event that is still with me to this day. I am thrilled to be part of this event and to be able to continue this UNM-Gallup Holiday tradition, it means a lot to me since this event makes people happy and reminds me of the time I worked with her.”

Marilee Petranovich, a Gallup resident since 1974, created Holiday in New Mexico with the intention of giving students a chance to celebrate the holidays in case their own home holidays were less than merry and bright. She often referred to the event as UNM-Gallup’s gift to the community.

“Marilee was a gem whose shine will continue to glow on our campus for a long time to come,” Ron Petranovich said.

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