The city of Riverside kicked off the annual Festival of Lights in downtown Riverside on Thursday, Nov. 25. The event featured various musical groups, carnival food, ice skating, reindeer, and the lighting of over three million lights along Mission Inn Avenue. California Baptist University’s F.A.I.T.H. Club was in attendance serving the community through volunteer work.
The festival began with a pre-show by the Riverside City College Marching Tigers. The band played a couple of festive songs to a large crowd of people. The street was barricaded for the festival, allowing the festival goers to fill the streets.
Following the Marching Tigers’ performance were speeches by city officials in honor of the festival, including Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge. At 5:30 p.m. Duane Roberts, the owner of the Mission Inn, switched on the lights along Mission Inn Avenue, immediately lighting up the night to the accompaniment of holiday music.
Members of the FAITH Club played their part by keep watch over the barricades along the streets to make sure that only individuals who had proper permission entered the streets. They also guided those who were permitted to cross the barricades to their destinations.
“We were basically bodyguards with cool vests,” Irene Zumaya, F.A.I.T.H. club secretary, said.
The F.A.I.T.H. Club was not the only volunteer organization at the festival. The Salvation Army, headed by Captain Robin Bottjen, was present as well. The organization provided free hot chocolate to all the people in attendance and The Salvation Army band played beside their vehicle and members rang the familiar bells heard outside shopping centers during the holidays.
The Salvation Army’s purpose in being there was to serve the community and to “let the community know about our services,” said Bottjen.
The F.A.I.T.H. Club’s purpose in being at the festival was to serve, “We just wanted to help in any way we could; we believe we should give back to our community,” Zumaya said.
The club’s mission of community service is motivated by their desire to serve God. “Our goal is to show others who God is through our actions,” Zumaya said.
Not only do the club members’ activities make a difference in the community, but they also affect the club members themselves. “We learn how to have patience and compassion by doing what God commands,” Zumaya said.
Festival attendees also enjoyed Dickens carolers singing in the plaza beside the Mission Inn. The group wore period costumes from the nineteenth century and performed a variety of songs, from old Christmas hymns to modern holiday songs.
Just a few steps away, the Christmas magic continued with two reindeer in a pen in the middle of the plaza. False snow trickled down from the edges of the Mission Inn, surprising and charming the people standing underneath the eaves.
The Mission Inn was alight with Christmas scenes and characters on all its exterior surfaces.
Nov. 25 initiated the month long festival that will last until Jan. 4. During this time, community members can view the lights on Mission Inn Avenue. Fun seekers can go ice skating on the rink in the Main Street pedestrian mall for $13 dollars, including skate rentals. Horse drawn carriage rides are also available. There will also be live entertainment and novelty vendors in downtown Riverside throughout the festival. For more information, visit http://www.riversideca.gov/