RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The famed “Festival of Lights” will return to
Riverside for the upcoming Christmas season, with the traditional switch-on
ceremony — a crowd favorite — scheduled to mark the start of the fest, for
the first time since 2019.

“The Festival of Lights has been a joyous occasion for Riverside
families for three decades,” Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said. “It is
gratifying to see that Riversiders will once again be able to gather together
for the switch-on ceremony.”

Switch-on events, which officially inaugurate the fest downtown, were
rescinded in November 2020 and November 2021. The 2020 event was prohibited by
state regulations on public gatherings because of COVID, and the City Council
decided to forgo the 2021 switch-on as a precautionary measure.

The ceremonies typically draw up to 75,000 people outside the Mission
Inn, where streets are closed and a fireworks extravaganza takes place.

This year’s switch-on is slated for the evening of Friday, Nov. 25.

“Riverside families have looked forward to the return of the switch-
on ceremony throughout the pandemic, so it is rewarding to see that patience
rewarded,” Councilman Ronaldo Fierro said. “Our city is looking forward to
another exciting event.”

This will be the fest’s 30th anniversary. Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
owner Duane Roberts began the Festival of Lights in 1992.

The nightly event features the century-old inn bathed in multi-colored
hues, with hundreds of animated characters, including elves, toy soldiers,
nutcrackers and angels, visible on banisters, balconies and ledges.

Towering Christmas trees traditionally line the way outside and into
the hotel, where visitors also encounter a mistletoe measuring 12-by-8 feet.

There will be live musical entertainment, photos with Santa Claus, as
well as artisan booths and food vendors up and down the Main Street pedestrian

This year’s activities will run nightly from Nov. 25 to Dec. 31,
though the lights will continue to shine until Jan. 6.

Last year, the council allocated $100,000 for the six-week event. This
year, $650,000 has been appropriated, according to city spokesman Phil

Prior to 2020, anywhere from $350,000 to $825,000 was earmarked for
festival activities, which netted sizable revenue to the city and vendors.

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