Festival of Lights
RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The famed “Festival of Lights” will return to downtown Riverside, beginning Saturday and continuing to the start of 2024, featuring millions of lights, holiday displays, ice skating and other entertainment on the pedestrian mall.
“Step into a world of wonder as we illuminate the night with our renowned holiday light collection, setting your heart aglow with festive cheer,” according to a statement from the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, whose owner, Duane Roberts, inaugurated the tradition in 1992. “Every year, it attracts 500,000 visitors, all thrilled to watch the display come to life through the Holidays.”
This year’s fest will be extended, beginning almost a week early. The switch-on ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday. The ceremony has traditionally been held the day after Thanksgiving, but organizers wanted to get a head start on this season’s activities.
“This will be a great opportunity for Riversiders to bring their families downtown after kids get out of school for the Thanksgiving break,” Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said.
Last year’s switch-on drew an estimated 50,000 spectators, but it’s likely to be a larger gathering on Saturday.
According to organizers, there will be a free concert featuring Mark McGrath, Jason Scheff, Tommy Tutone, Skip Martin and other names. Comedian Cheech Marin will be on hand for the switch-on, as well.
This will be the fest’s 31st anniversary.
Switch-on events were rescinded in November 2020 and November 2021. The 2020 event was prohibited by state regulations on public gatherings because of COVID, and the City Council decided to forgo the 2021 switch-on as a precautionary measure. The ceremony got back on track last year.
The nightly fest features the century-old inn bathed in multi-colored hues, with hundreds of animated characters, including elves, toy soldiers, nutcrackers and angels, visible on banisters, balconies and ledges.
Towering Christmas trees and wooden soldiers traditionally line the way outside and into the hotel, where visitors also encounter a mistletoe measuring 12-by-8 feet.
There will be live musical entertainment weekly, photos with Santa Claus, as well as artisan booths and food vendors up and down the Main Street pedestrian mall. An ice skating rink will be situated between University Avenue and Mission Inn. The city also festoons light standards and other municipal property with displays and lights.
The council allocated $1 million for this year’s fest. Last year, it was $650,000 for the six-week event.
Although festivities will stop on Dec. 31, the lights will stay on until Jan. 7.
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