April 20, 2024

[John Victory | Banner] Ashlee Smith, junior communications disorders major, gazes at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa light display in downtown Riverside. The festival will be running for its 24th year and feature favorite traditions, including a dazzling light display, food and entertainment.

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa has been providing an array of twinkling lights in downtown Riverside since 1992, known as the Festival of Lights. The event began Nov. 25 and continues for six weeks as people experience one of the nation’s largest holiday-light collections of its kind.

The Festival of Lights is an annual tradition from property owners Duane and Kelly Roberts and attracts more than 250,000 people each year. The extravagant display consists of 4.5 million holiday lights, more than 400 animated figures and the world’s largest manmade mistletoe to top it all off.

One purpose it serves is to help people get into the holiday spirit. For Sally Thrapp, freshman accounting major, Christmas is her favorite holiday and she attended the Festival of Lights the past two years.

“Christmas is my favorite time of year,” Thrapp said. “I love seeing all of the Christmas lights and getting apple cider. It’s also a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family. There are also a bunch of different food stands.”

Jay Stovall, director of New Student Programs, has made the trip to the Festival of Lights five times and appreciates the history behind the location that makes it different from other light displays.

“I don’t think it’s changed that much since I first went, or at least that I’m aware of,” Stovall said. “I absolutely would recommend it to other people. The Mission Inn area is so historic so all of the lights and the building are iconic.”

Besides the lights, the festival offers a chance for friends and families a unique night on the town.

Hayley Howanec, sophomore pre-nursing major, said she enjoys the opportunity for fellowship and has been enjoying it for the past six years.

“It is so much more than just a light festival, but a time for my family to come back together as we get older to spend time with one another as we prepare for the holiday season,” Howanec said. “It’s a time for individuals to be peaceful and in the moment with each other before the busyness begins.”

This will be the 24th year of the festival, offering food and beverages as people from all over come to celebrate.

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