Festival of Lights in downtown Riverside ignites holiday spirit

By Leslie Santibanez-Molina 

Hundreds of people gather to see the this years historic Mission Inn lights, fireworks show

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All of these things contributed to the anticipation that was felt throughout a crowd of people waiting for the fireworks and lights to be ignited at the Mission Inn in downtown Riverside.

These festivities signaled the beginning of the 24th Annual Festival of Lights.

Every year, the event attracts people like moths to a flame as they arrive to witness one of the nation’s best holiday displays.

Downtown Riverside’s Festival Of Lights won Best Public Lights Display and Best Holiday Festival in 2014 from a USA Today Reader’s Choice contest.  

Once the clock rang 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 25, the magic switch was flipped and the night sky ignited with colorful fireworks and the bright lights of the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa’s holiday display.

People’s phones, tablets and cameras were seen throughout the crowd as they tried to capture the moment.

After taking their daughter to watch the fireworks, the Morales Family headed toward the Mission Galleria. This year was the family’s first time attending the event.

“Its great. There is so much diversity … a mixture of all cultures here,” the mother of the Morales family said.

Construction on Main Street and University Avenue to replace the Imperial Hardware Store caused a lack of space for the ice skating rink equipment. Without this space, the ice rink could not be kept cool. Because of this, the ice skating rink was replaced with a Colorful Vintage Carousel, The Century Wheel and Trackless Train Rides.

The ice skating rink is due to return in 2017.

Patron Becky Brown has been attending the Festival of Lights for four consecutive years. Brown said she believes this year’s festival has been the best so far.

“This year has been their most organized,” Brown said. “Their website was clear … and there were constant traffic updates.”

Brown mentioned how the website advised her not to take University Avenue and to instead use 14th Street to avoid traffic. In the end, Brown was led directly into the parking structure.

In addition to the parking guidance, Brown was able to download the Pyro Spectacular app, which enhanced her experience when viewing the fireworks. The app allowed people to stream their music along with firework displays in any location.

“(The fireworks) were nice (because I) had the music synced,” Brown said.

Not all people were able to witness the flipping of the switch.

Vendors such as Robert Bush and his booth, Crafty Cosmic Creation, sold their products throughout the event.

This was Bush’s first time at the festival and even though he wasn’t able to witness the flipping of the switch, he still saw the venue as a great opportunity to gain new business.

“It’s been great, the people here in Riverside” said Bush. “It’s a real pleasant event.”

The Festival of Lights is located at the historic Mission Inn in downtown Riverside and  will continue until Jan. 7.