The Switch-On Ceremony began the start of the annual Riverside Festival of Lights Nov. 27. The historic festive event is intended to usher in the Christmas spirit.
What started in 1992 as a small and simple Christmas lighting ceremony has now become an annual tradition that attracts thousands of people from all over the state.
The event has been ranked by People Magazine as the second best lighting ceremony and by USA Today as the No. 1 best public lights display in the United States.
Brenda Flowers, project coordinator for the city of Riverside, explained the initial idea came 23 years ago from a visit to Sendai, Japan, by Dwayne Roberts, the former owner of the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa.
“(Roberts) and the then mayor (of Riverside), went to Sendai, Japan, which is one of our sister cities,” Flowers said. “They have a festival of lights there, so they thought they should do something like that here in Riverside. So that started the process and it grew from there.”
The 23rd annual Switch-on Ceremony transformed downtown Riverside into a dazzling array of over three million illuminating festive lights and was followed by an elaborate fireworks display.
Stephanie Davis, sophomore health science major, attended the event last year.
“It was more than I expected,” Davis said. “Everything was covered in lights, and I mean everything.”
The Festival of Lights helps to create a Christmas holiday atmosphere. Davis said students can expect a really unique experience.
“It’s crazy how many lights and how much effort probably goes into creating the event,” she said.
Noemi Ponce, junior nursing major, also attended last year and mentioned the other events the festival has to offer, including food booths and an ice skating rink.
Ponce also said she loves attending. It is a great event to spend time with friends and family throughout the holiday season.
“Students can expect to have a good time and will get to see all the Christmas lighting,” Ponce said.
Shelby Freise, sophomore marketing major, said students can go expecting a great bonding experience.
“(There are) nutcrackers in the window, reindeer and servings of hot cocoa and cider,” Freise said.
Other events include personal photos with Santa Claus and horse carriage rides. Artisan Collectives will also be there. It is an innovative arts market that allows people to participate in free public art workshops and local entertainment from various musicians.
Students can also sign up and apply to provide musical entertainment for the event on the Riverside Festival of Lights website.
The event will take place at the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in downtown Riverside from Nov. 27 to Jan. 2.