The switch will be flipped today 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 that will continue through New Year’s.
“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 — highlighted by a fireworks extravaganza — with Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge and other guests, scheduled in front of the inn at 4:30 p.m.
The city is planning a number of holiday activities on the downtown Main Street pedestrian mall beforehand, officials said.
The festival, which will wrap up Jan. 5, is supported by the city, which this year allocated $389,000 to adorn lights on the mall, along connecting streets and around municipal buildings.
Funds also went toward a 45-by 90-foot ice skating rink on Main street, between Mission Inn and University avenues, as well as a mini-train, visits from Santa and the Dickens carolers, who make the rounds several nights a week, singing Christmas favorites.
The Mission Inn is the main attraction. A two-story Christmas tree will be on display in front of the hotel, where employees will try for a Guinness World Record by creating a garland of mistletoe 15 feet long and 8 feet wide.
Visitors will also encounter some 400 animated characters, including elves, toy soldiers, nutcrackers and angels, visible on all levels of the
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 that circle the grounds.
A 20-person crew began stringing lights and ringing the hotel with other decorations in mid-September.
Last year’s festival drew more than 250,000 visitors, according to the Mission Inn.