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Column: Tree lighting benefits Orange County School of the Arts

Students from the Orange County School of the Arts perform at the Balboa Bay Club Saturday evening at the annual tree-lighting ceremony. The event raised money for OCSA.
(Photo by Ann Chatillon)

Coast Highway came alive with an explosion of lights, music, song and cheers of holiday goodwill from some 1,000 spectators gathered Sunday evening for the annual tree-lighting ceremony at Balboa Bay Club and Balboa Bay Resort. What started a quarter century ago as a simple coming together of community marking a seasonal tradition has grown into a holiday spectacular.

The 2018 celebration featured a full-stage production created especially for the evening by the talented staff and students of the Orange County School of the Arts and its outstanding performance ambassadors known as “Montage.” Working closely with the club’s event management team led by Aaron Trent, the holiday show was the culmination of some two months of creative rehearsals resulting in a performance billed as “Making Holiday Memories” featuring 40 student stars in grades 7-12 in 10 production numbers outfitted in sparkling costumes.

Produced by OCSA Creative Director Cindy Peca, working with Technical Director Kevin Cook, the extravagant show, in its third year associated with the BBC, constructed a major set on the resort property fronting a sea of white chairs backed by rising bleachers to accommodate the crowd arriving at dusk. As guests arrived, valets whisked away the stream of cars, attendants stood by tables of hot cider and hot chocolate, and children dashed to buffet stations laden with holiday cookies.

“This is our holiday gift to the community,” said International Bay Clubs President Kevin Martin, welcoming the crowd along with Todd Pickup, chairman and CEO.


The public event was underwritten by the organization in support of OCSA, supported in significant measure by Carole Pickup, matriarch of the ownership family in control of International Bay Clubs.

Pickup joined her daughter Devon Martin, wife of Kevin Martin, and many longtime Balboa Bay Club members, including Gayle and Ron Soderling, Sharon and Gary Katsaris, Jack Crawford, Robert Harrell, Lisa Hallaian, Helga Matuska, Kate and Kai Heck, BBC governor Bill Blaine and wife, Sharon, Marilyn Severson and BBC governor Joe Moody with Caroline Davenport and son Mason Moody.

Pickup family patriarch Richard (Dick) Pickup was front and center with wife, Donna, and her son Kelly Jones and daughter Stephanie Jones in the joyous crowd with Jacob, Brianna and Ryan Harder, BBC governor and chairman John Wortmann with wife, Anne, and son John Jr., as well as Susan and Daryl Tschurn, Ryan Thomas, Kathy Hamilton, Vivienne Davis and Teren Shaffer, executive vice president of OSCA.

The gathering was blessed by Pastor Brian Eckelmann of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, wrapping the festivities in a bow of spiritual sharing as Santa Claus arrived to the cheers of the children and adults alike and 1,000 lights illuminated the holiday tree as the crowd counted down from 10 to one.


B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.