Riverside Festival of Lights again cancels lighting ceremony – press enterprise

Riverside’s signature vacation show will continue. But for the second year in a row, the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa Festival of Lights will not be hosting the popular lighting ceremony, officials said on Monday (September 20).

The Mission Inn has decided to cancel the opening night event which draws tens of thousands of people from Southern California due to concerns about personal safety as the delta variant fuels another wave of coronavirus , according to a press release. And the city of Riverside, which is partnering with the hotel to organize the event, intends to cut its festival programs.

  • The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa Festival of Lights, seen on Friday November 24, 2017, will be held this year. However, the hotel decided to cancel the traditional lighting ceremony due to concerns about the coronavirus. (File photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • Thousands of people take to the streets on Friday, November 25, 2016 to witness the fireworks lighting ceremony for the 24th annual Mission Inn Hotel & Spa Festival of Lights in Riverside. For the second year in a row, the start-up event has been canceled. (File photo by Frank Bellino, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • Fireworks explode in downtown Riverside during the Lighting Ceremony of the 27th Annual Mission Inn Hotel & Spa Festival of Lights on Friday, November 29, 2019. For the second year in a row, the Lighting Ceremony of the holiday season festival has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • Left to right, Louie Fonseca and Samantha Treat enjoy vacation decorations at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside on Friday, November 27, 2020. Like the celebration of 2020, the 2021 holiday festival will be scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic , officials said. And there will be no lighting ceremony on the opening night. (File photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

As a result, the 2021 festival, for the most part, will mirror the 2020 event, the statement said.

David Bristow, lawyer for the Mission Inn, said rescinding the start-up was a difficult decision to make.

“The hard part is, we don’t know what the world will be like on the Friday after Thanksgiving,” Bristow said, but plans must be made now to protect public health.

What this means for festival goers is that there will be no dazzling fireworks display as millions of Christmas lights come on. Many traditional elements – live entertainment, attractions, food vendors and horse drawn carriages – will not be part of the 2021 celebration, the statement said.

Last year, the name of the downsized event was temporarily changed to Christmas Lights at the Inn.

Bristow said there were no such plans this year.

“The Festival of Lights itself will not be reduced in terms of lights and decorations, as far as the Mission Inn is concerned,” he said.

Calling the festival a “much-loved tradition,” Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said the hotel and city “look forward to the lighting ceremony returning in 2022”.

In recent years, the festival has attracted over 700,000 people over its roughly six-week duration and up to 75,000 for the opening night festivities.

The festival will still feature lights and decorations at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, and the city will be setting up holiday-themed selfie stations, holiday trees, ornaments, a sleigh, and an assortment of light shows, indicates the press release.

City officials are looking at ways to improve the festival experience by adding decorations and lights along Main Street, Liberation States, and a proposal is expected to go to Riverside City Council.

“We hope that next year’s 30th anniversary will be a time when we can return to the Festival as we knew it before COVID-19,” Pro Mayor Tem Gaby Plascencia said in the press release.

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