3.6M Lights Illuminate Riverside's Mission Inn Hotel

By Jacob Rascon and Samantha Tata
|  Friday, Nov 23, 2012  |  Updated 10:41 PM PDT
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Watch as millions of twinkling lights are switched on during the historic hotel's annual Festival of Lights.  Jacob Rascon reports from Riverside for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 23, 2012.

Watch as millions of twinkling lights are switched on during the historic hotel's annual Festival of Lights. Jacob Rascon reports from Riverside for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 23, 2012.

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More than 3.6 million lights were switched on Friday evening at the historic Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in Riverside during the annual Festival of Lights celebration.

Flowers, fireworks, figurines and nearly four million lights attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators, some from as far as Missouri and Indiana and France, and called back crowds who've been watching the lights turn on for decades.

For Michelle and Martin Barrera's family, Friday's celebration marks the official kick off of the Christmas season. At the Mission Inn's first Festival of Lights in 1992, the pair was dating. Now, they're married with grown children.

Andrew Radkay has also never missed the event -- even when his mother was pregnant with him.

Hands-on preparations for the illuminated event started in August. Some 160 people help set up lights in and around the hotel, and a 12-person fireworks crew is responsible for ending the night with a bang.

"This is the owner's way of giving back," said Marcus Buettner, with the Mission Inn.

Last year, about 250,000 spectators gathered for the event. Hotel management estimates this year's crowd was even larger.

And with such a huge draw, Buettner said the inn will start getting requests on Saturday to book rooms during next year's Festival of Lights.

The inn's lights will be twinkling every night through Jan. 5.

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