RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Yes, there are twinkling lights, but they were quietly turned on during the day so no crowds would gather to wait for an official “on switch.”
The Festival of Lights, which drew thousands of people to Riverside's Mission Inn since 1992, is not happening this year. No music, no show, no rides, no fireworks… but yes, lights!
And yes, the small stores are open, selling ornaments, antiques, and all kinds of specialty gifts. Restaurants and coffee shops are also open and happy they are not in Los Angeles County, where restaurants can only offer takeout or delivery options.
There was a brisk -- if not, overwhelming -- traffic of people shopping.
"We are not going to malls, too many people, too many hands on the handrails, too many ways to get infected with COVID," says one shopper at the Village in Upland.
In Glendora, other shoppers say they are supporting their small businesses, which stand to shut down if they don’t.
So perhaps the pandemic could help some of the small retailers if they manage to stay open through the holiday season.
“Please, shop local” was the mantra from store owners, again, and again.
In Riverside, the lights did not bring crowds of thousands, but there were quite a few people, saying they wanted to try to keep some kind of tradition in a holiday season that is changing so much this year.
“Who knows what, we will or won’t be able to do by December 31?” says one woman taking selfies with the bright decorations around the Mission Inn.
Indeed, who would have imagined back in March we’d be where we are, nine months later…