Along with caroling and a visit from Santa, the event came with several surprises. After guests joined the countdown for the tree lighting, the towering pine that required a crane to erect blazed briefly, eliciting shouts from the crowd. And then it blacked out, drawing a different sound from bystanders.
But all came right as the tree relit and a blast of faux snow showered the gathering. Hotel General Manager Todd Orlich and the hotel’s employee group provided another surprise, a $5,000 check for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
The event did snarl southbound rush-hour traffic and annoyed some shopping center patrons, who were squeezed out of parking spaces. A shuttle available to the hotel from Aliso Beach parking lots was not widely promoted.