One week from today the switch will be flipped on 3.6 million Christmas lights, saturating downtown Riverside in brilliant hues for the 20th annual Festival of Lights, featuring an assortment of holiday fare.
“We are honored that the Festival of Lights is celebrating its 20th year,” said Mission Inn Hotel & Spa owner Duane Roberts, who began the tradition in 1992. “Festival of Lights has become such a cherished part of the holiday season, with many families making it an annual tradition.”
Roberts will preside over a switch-on ceremony with local officials, scheduled outside the inn at 6 p.m. next Friday.
The festival, which will wrap up Jan. 5, is supported by the city, which this year allocated $389,000 for lights throughout the downtown Main Street pedestrian mall, along connecting streets and around municipal buildings.
City funds also went toward a 45- by 90-foot ice skating rink on the mall, a mini train, visits from Santa and the Dickens carolers, who make the rounds several nights a week singing holiday favorites.
The Mission Inn is the main attraction. A two-story Christmas tree will be on display in front of the hotel, where visitors will also encounter a 12- by 8-foot mistletoe. Some 400 animated characters, including elves, toy soldiers, nutcrackers and angels, will be visible on all levels of the century-old inn.
A virtual winter wonderland, packed with real snow, is planned, and live reindeer will accompany Santa during a few of his appearances, according to organizers.
There will be nightly horse-drawn carriage rides circling the grounds.
A 20-person crew began stringing lights and ringing the hotel with other decorations in mid-September. Preparations continued round the clock, with partial street closures sometimes necessary to put the trappings in place.
Last year’s festival drew more than 250,000 visitors, according to organizers.