For the first time in more than half a century, Riverside will have a float in the Tournament of Roses Parade, the design for which was unveiled Wednesday, featuring a scaled-down replica of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa as it appears during the famed Festival of Lights.
"The Mission Inn is one thing that Riverside has that nobody else has, and that makes Riverside unique," Mayor Rusty Bailey told those gathered for the unveiling ceremony outside the St. Francis of Assisi Chapel, on the north end of the hotel property.
Bailey recounted how the downtown area was in a state of decay, lacking any economic vitality, in the 1980s -- until Duane Roberts and his wife, Kelly Roberts, arrived and purchased the then-shuttered Mission Inn, which underwent a major renovation.
"You could roll a bowling ball down Main Street. There was nothing going on before the re-opening of the Mission Inn (in 1992)," the mayor said. "Duane and Kelly were willing to invest in our community."
Bailey acknowledged that the six-week Festival of Lights, which Roberts inaugurated 25 years ago, has drawn business and travel to Riverside like nothing else in the area.
"Duane and Kelly built the festival into what it is today," he said. "And the city and festival are married together."
The Rose Parade float will showcase two main features of the Mission Inn -- the main walkway to the main entrance and the chapel dome.
According to the design graphic, there will be bushes and palm trees decorated with Christmas lights, as well as various atmospherics that highlight the inn's signature style. The float's theme is "Making a Difference," a salute to the innkeepers.
"As the Mission Inn goes, so does Riverside," Mission Inn president Stan Kantowski said, speaking on behalf of Duane and Kelly Roberts, who could not attend the unveiling. "Under Mr. Roberts' leadership, the hotel has grown to its original splendor, and we are excited and eager to see what the next decade and beyond will bring."
The festival's quarter-century celebration will begin on Nov. 24 with an evening switch-on ceremony replete with fireworks and music, after which the hotel, Main Street pedestrian mall and surrounding streets will glow with more than five million Christmas lights. The fest will conclude on Jan. 7.
The Rose Parade is set for the morning of Jan. 1 in Pasadena. The last time the city entered a float was in 1959.
The Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce Foundation raised more than $300,000 in support of the float. No municipal funds were spent on it, officials said.