CELEBRATION: Riverside celebrates its 25th anniversary of the Festival of Lights with new, candy- themed attractions.
By Micah Pierce, Staff Writer
The first Festival of Lights was held in 1992, as a celebration hosted by the owners of the historic Mission Inn Hotel, Duane and Kelly Roberts, after they saved the hotel from shutting down. Ever since the first Festival, the celebration has managed to attract over 500,000 people from all over the globe each year. The Festival has received some very prestigious accolades, including being named the “Best Public Lights Display in the Nation” in 2014 by USA Today, and featured on a list of the best displays of Christmas lights in the West by The Los Angeles Times. Since receiving these honors, the Festival of Lights has only grown in size and scale, with brand new additions for this 2017 holiday season. This year’s Festival of Lights had the “Switch-on” Ceremony on Friday, November 24th and will continue for six weeks, ending on Saturday, January 6th..
In honor of the multi-generational festival’s 25th anniversary, the brand new theme for 2017 is “Sweet 25”. The entire exterior of the Mission Inn is designed to accommodate the candy centered theme. The hotel is adorned with 5,000,000 lights, 200 animatronic figures, and a coat of fresh winter snow. In addition to new decor, the Mission Inn has added a few new attractions and activities. These include the Candy Stroll, Sweet Dreams Suite, and candy- themed cupcakes from the award-winning Casey’s Cupcakes. The Candy Stroll is located on the Mission Inn’s main walkway and takes people under the traditional mistletoe through candy decorated paths, towards Main Street. Along with the new additions, the old attractions of the Festival of Lights, such as the Century Wheel on Main Street and the Carousel still remain, located between Mission Inn Avenue and University Avenue. The horse carriages will still be traveling the streets and taking people on rides through Downtown Riverside every day of the celebration. Of course, tourists from all over the country aren’t the only ones who get to enjoy the festivities, as the residents of Riverside also take great joy in celebrating the holiday season at the Festival of Lights.
Members of the Riverside community and the Poly family express their love for the Festival of Lights in multiple ways. Some donate time and money to constructing the festival, while others simply bring friends and loved ones to the festival. Allyn Hawthorne (10) communicates his appreciation for everybody who cares enough to contribute. “I really enjoy all the big crowds, even if I spend a lot of time swimming through them. It really shows how the Festival of Lights brings the community together to share and create such a wonderful holiday,” Hawthorne said.
With all of the upgrades to the 2017 Festival of Lights, the celebration of 25 years of Christmas jubilation is sure to be quite the spectacle.