Published: Nov. 29, 2014
Luis Solis | Staff Editor
The Festival of Light event brings a little of the “Winter Wonderland” experience to the Inland Empire every year for five weeks.
This year, its held from Nov. 28 through Jan. 6 at the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa.
The twinkling of lights, the prancing horses and the smell of freshly baked goods can get anyone into the Christmas spirit.
“I wanted to do something to pay back the community and as a little kid I really enjoyed when my parents would take us out and see all of the neighborhoods that had all lid up in Christmas lights,” said Duane Roberts, owner of the Mission Inn in Riverside. “I thought that would be a great thing here at the Mission Inn where we got such a beautiful architecture and do something for the city and families. I’m all into families and binding the community.”
The Mission Inn displayed over four million holiday lights surrounding the entire building accompanied by fireworks set off on the event’s first night of the year, which shined brightly into the winter sky.
“We had a couple of thousand people show up in the first one in 1993 and we had a couple of 100,000 lights and 4,000 caricatures,” Roberts said.
The event brought in over 250,000 unique visitors from around the world in 2013 and “People Magazine” ranked the display as the second best lighting ceremony in the nation, behind Rockefeller Center in New York
The outside exterior of the Mission Inn has Christmas decorations such as caricatures and scenes on every nook and cranny, including the tropical palm trees of Southern California.
The event also has an ice skating rink located on Mission Street between University Avenue and Mission Inn Avenue with an admission of $15 per person.
The owners, Duane and his wife Kelly Roberts, saved the Mission Inn from being demolished during 1992 and are the ones responsible for coming up with the idea to decorate the building with holiday lights and it grew into a huge event.
The entire downtown area of Riverside participates along with the Festival of Lights with food vendors selling traditional holiday foods, carolers and horse carriages.
The Festival of Lights is a winter holiday tradition in Riverside that has been going on for 22 years.
“I’m so proud to see how everything has turned out over these 22 years when I first bought the Mission Inn on Dec. 24, 1992,” Roberts said.