A warm November night set the scene for the opening of the 22nd Annual Riverside Festival of Lights, a seasonal event in Downtown Riverside filled with festivities for attendees of all ages.
The event, which began Nov. 28, centers around the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa and features live performances and nightly movies until Jan. 3.
Originally designed to celebrate the owners of the Mission Inn, Duane and Kelly Roberts, for saving the hotel from destruction in the early 1990s, the festival’s opening ceremony featured fireworks and performances by the Riverside Community College band.
This ceremony, attended by more than 50,000 people, celebrated the turning on of more than 4 million lights on and around the Mission Inn.
The City of Riverside has since adopted the Mission Inn Festival of Lights as an initiative toward what they call a “Dickensian holiday spectacle,” featuring lights and decorations throughout the Downtown Riverside area. Visitors can enjoy live performances by local bands and visit attractions ranging from a reindeer petting zoo to an outdoor ice skating rink set up for the festival.
Nathaly Garcia, freshman sociology major, attended the Festival of Lights for the first time this November. She said the experience was one of her favorites of the holiday season, and while she was not familiar with the Festival of Lights until someone mentioned it to her this semester, she was impressed with the effort put into presenting such a huge show for the community.
“I have lived in the Inland Empire since I was in the sixth grade, but I didn’t go to the Festival of Lights until this year,” Garcia said. “It was gorgeous when I got to go. Seeing vendors on the street while experiencing the new culture and beauty of the Mission Inn is definitely something I want to experience again with college friends.”
More than just being a pretty sight, the Festival of Lights offers visitors an opportunity to purchase items from small vendors who have set up shop for the Festival of Lights all through downtown.
These wares, which range from jewelry to freshly made kettle corn, contribute to the holiday atmosphere, as well as provide a casual entertainment experience for those interested in seeing the festively lit Mission Inn.
Mike Aquino, junior biomedical engineering major, said he was originally excited to visit the Festival of Lights just to see how the Mission Inn was decorated for the holidays, but also ended up having a great time hanging out with friends while experiencing the community around the hotel.
“As a native of Temecula, it was interesting to see how the Riverside community takes something that might usually be a smaller scale lighting ceremony and makes it something festive for everyone to share,” Aquino said. “The Mission Inn is gorgeous, and the lights they put up are amazing, but I saw that there was a lot more than just lights to see there. It’s a lot of fun to experience the town I go to school at in a new way.”