Its beginning to look a little like Christmas at Mission Inn in downtown Riverside

Crews begin two month task of stringing holiday lights for popular annual display

POSTED: 07:53 AM PDT Sep 19, 2013 
Christmas Tree closeup with ornaments and tinsel
RIVERSIDE, Calif. -

It's beginning to look a little like Christmas around the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in downtown Riverside, where crews this week began the two-month task of stringing holiday lights and placing other seasonal  decorations that will be featured in the hotel's 21st annual Festival of Lights.

   A 20-person crew using hydraulic lifts and working in shifts will be busy straight up to Thanksgiving with preparations for the festival, which  begins with a switch-on ceremony and fireworks on Nov. 29, according to a hotel spokeswoman.

   Mission Inn owner Duane Roberts introduced the festival in 1992, and since then has grown to include the entire downtown pedestrian mall.

   ``Holidays are the most wonderful time of year at ... historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa,'' Roberts said. ``Each Festival of Lights is bigger than the  one before, but the event remains free as an experience families can enjoy  together, like Disneyland but without the long lines and cost of tickets.

   ``We are proud to gift our guests and the community with Festival of Lights yearly. It warms our hearts to see smiles across every face in the crowd  as they gaze in awe at the sparkling lights.''

   This year's festival will feature nearly four million Christmas lights that will glow nightly until Jan. 4.

   A two-story Christmas tree will be on display in front of the hotel, where visitors will also encounter a 12- by 8-foot mistletoe. Some 400 animated characters, including elves, toy soldiers, nutcrackers and angels, will be  visible on all levels of the century-old inn.

   There will be nightly horse-drawn carriage rides, carolers and ice skating on the pedestrian mall fronting the inn, according to festival organizers.

   Last year's event drew more than 250,000 visitors, organizers said.