This year marks the 25th anniversary of a Riverside tradition held at the historic Mission Inn Hotel and Spa that brings the city’s community together through holiday spirit, sweet treats and plenty of illuminated decorations.
Since 1992, the Festival of Lights has brought people of all ages together to celebrate the start of the holiday season. In light of the anniversary, the theme of this year’s festivities is “Sweet 25” which officially started Nov. 24.
The candy theme is carried throughout the exterior and interior of the hotel and includes the new Candy Stroll, Sweet Dreams suite, weekly specials featured in the hotel restaurants and candy-themed Casey’s Cupcakes.
Besides the special additions this year, the hotel is covered with 5 million lights, features 200 animated characters, a 30- foot Christmas tree, a flyover by the North American T-6 formation team, a fireworks display and a special performance by the Inland Pacific Ballet.
Jason Maciel, director of marketing at the Mission Inn since 2016, is responsible for the promotion of the event and described the event as giving back to the community.
“Festival of Lights is an annual gift to the community from our owners, Duane and Kelly Roberts, who saved the historic hotel from destruction in 1992,” Maciel said. “It’s rare that you find such an extravagant event that is 100 percent free for the community to enjoy.”
Hailey Adams, junior health science major, has attended the celebration for the past three years and said she appreciates the joyous occasion as well as the new additions this year.
“I like to go not only because it is a true sight to see, but also it is a really good way to spend quality time with friends and get in the Christmas spirit,” Adams said. “Aside from the show and the fireworks, it seems as if the people who set up the lights were more intentional about ensuring that almost every inch of downtown is covered.”
Others who attended, such as Jesse Chen, senior international studies major, were disappointed with the removal of the ice rink. However, Chen said he enjoyed the addition of the live music.
“I have gone to the Festival of Lights for the past four years and it’s such a great opportunity to enjoy the lights and a hot drink with friends,” Chen said. “The ice rink was replaced with a carousel, which made me a little bit sad. However, something that I enjoyed the most about it was the live band playing music.”
Maciel said he hopes the Festival of Lights will continue to bring joy to families in the community and abroad.
The event will continue through Jan. 6, and is open to the public.