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Festival of Lights in Downtown Riverside California


Collector: “Did you participate in any specific rituals or festivals growing up?”

Informant: “I grew up attending the Festival of Lights in Downtown Riverside, California. It’s always around Christmas time. They cover the entire downtown city in Christmas lights. It’s beautiful. There are musicians, usually solo artists, that come out they’ll put a bucket right next to them to collect tips. There’s a guy who brings his dog with him every year while he plays banjo. There’s a lot of different vendors, like there’s one specific hot cocoa stand that’s usually there. I forget the name. Some people sell glow stick toys to kids. The crowd is mostly families and couples.”

Collector: “Is there a main ceremony or is it just seeing lights?”

Informant: “There is like a main ceremony where they turn all the lights on. You know, the first night that’s when it’s the most crowded. Everybody goes downtown and they wait for them to turn on the lights.”


The informant is a twenty-year-old male from Riverside California. 


I found the informant’s description of the Festival of Lights interesting, as I also grew up in Riverside but rarely participated in this downtown tradition. The Informant spoke fondly of the festival with warmth and smiled as he remembered small details from his childhood. I took the festival for granted, but his perspective made me see the tradition in a whole new light. The Informant feels very connected to the city of Riverside because he participated in community events annually. I felt disconnected from the community in my childhood, as I wasn’t involved in many hometown traditions. Local festivals have the power to create a sense of belonging in communities and build a strong emotional connection to a geographic location.