Written by Karla Rodriguez
It’s that time of year again, when ladders come out, lights go up and power bills are at an all time high.
Across America, people are busy decking the halls, hanging up lights everywhere possible and putting up Christmas trees.
Riverside is no exception. The 23rd annual Festival of Lights switch-on ceremony Friday, Nov. 27 included multiple festivities, starting around 4:30 p.m., followed by fireworks later that evening.
Thousands of people were packed tightly around the Mission Inn. The commotion was hectic before the ceremony, but as soon as the fireworks commenced, everyone stopped to admire the show.
“It was super packed and busy, but the lights made it all worth it,” says Elisabeth Cortes, spectator and Riverside Community College student.
There were four million lights and 400 characters on display surrounding the entire Mission Inn property, with Santa Claus on Main and Ninth Street near City Hall. The frosted ice skating rink took it’s usual place on the Main Street Pedestrian Mall between University and Mission Inn Avenues.
Mariachi pandas, Angel in blue dress, Elves on a ladders, Rotating jack-in-the-box, an old-fashioned soda wagon selling vintage favorites and Carolers in a green suits and top hats are just a few of the many attractions at the ceremony.
Ending with bursting fireworks that lit up the sky around the Mission Inn. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a newbie when it comes to visiting the Festival of Lights in Downtown Riverside, the switch-on ceremony was clearly enjoyable for spectators.
“The lights were amazing just like every year. It certainly lives up to the hype,” said John Resendez, another RCC student and spectator at the ceremony.
Riverside’s Festival of Lights won top honors as America’s Best Public Lights Display in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice contest in 2015.
From the 20 nominees selected by Deborah Norville of Inside Edition, the Riverside Festival of Lights claimed first.
Competition for the Lights Display included Night of Lights in Downtown St. Augustine on the other side of the East Coast, who came in second place.
Charleston, Coeur d’Alene and Pine Mountain displays also placed in the contest. Not only is the Festival of Lights a Riverside county tradition but it is also an annual reminder that the holidays are here.
The Lights ceremony will run through Jan. 6, 2016. Spectators will be able to see the lights around the Mission Inn for the first or fifth time. Surrounding attractions, including vendors and ice skating, will end Jan. 2.