Fashion Island prepares for upcoming holiday season with arrival of 90-foot Christmas tree

Fashion Island's 90-foot-tall white fir Christmas tree is lowered by a crane into place.
Fashion Island’s 90-foot-tall white fir Christmas tree is lowered by a crane into place at the Neiman Marcus-Bloomingdale’s Courtyard on Wednesday morning in Newport Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Santa’s coming to town in just a few weeks, but at Fashion Island in Newport Beach — the tree’s coming first.

Early Wednesday morning, cranes lifted a 90-foot tall white fir tree off the back of a flatbed truck to be “installed,” which Victor Serrao, president of Victor’s Custom Christmas Trees, said means that the tree needs to be lifted and placed. Serrao said it’ll be about a few days for branches that are “plugged” back into the tree to fill it out.

Serrao said the team will return to coat the tree in a flame retardant, then decorate it to make it the Christmas tree that shoppers are familiar with by Nov. 13.

This year, the tree’s going without a lighting ceremony in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Fashion Island spokespeople said the tree would be lit every night and that families would be able to take complimentary photos with the tree and make virtual visits to Santa, starting Nov. 20 through Jan. 2.

The tree’s arrival marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season at Fashion Island, which retailers Voluspa and Neiman Marcus said they already began preparations for.

Fashion Island's 90-foot-tall holiday white fir tree waits in a parking lot.
A 90-foot Christmas tree waits in a parking lot at Fashion Island.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Brittany Bell, an account executive and training and education director at Voluspa, described the arrival of the tree as a “north star” in planning holiday merchandising and events. Once it arrived, Bell said it was “full force until the New Year.”

Adriana Sender, the brand experience manager for the Fashion Island branch of Neiman Marcus, agreed, adding that the tree as a holiday tradition dates back three decades. Serrao’s company has served Fashion Island for that entire period.

Serrao said that every year, the company aims to bring back trees, ornaments and lights of a better quality than the previous year. Many of his other customers, he said, aren’t holding a lighting ceremony, but that the tree will still be there for people to enjoy.

“I think especially because the pandemic happening in March and we’ve gone through it now. We’re hoping it’s rounding a corner and that things are going to get better,” Serrao said. “This is kind of a good way to end the year, like ‘OK. Things are getting back to normal. This is the way to celebrate it.’”

Bell, who grew up in Newport Beach, said the tree was a sign of being officially “in” the holiday season in Orange County.

Fashion Island's 90-foot-tall holiday white fir tree is driven through a walkway.
A 90-foot Christmas tree is driven through a walkway into the Neiman Marcus-Bloomingdale’s Courtyard at Fashion Island.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“It means it’s time to Christmas shop, go to the boat parade, walk Balboa to see the Christmas lights, wrap presents and holiday parties. I think it is extra special this year because it’s a symbol of joy and normalcy,” Bell said. “Let’s be honest, 2020 has been rough. I think everyone could agree on looking up at the big pretty tree and letting the rest of the world melt away for a moment.”

Sender said she also usually sees an increase in customers in the past when the tree goes up.

Bell agreed, but added that she felt business has been consistent throughout the pandemic at Voluspa because of the products that it sells. Both said their respective stores will have special promotions as Black Friday and the holiday shopping season begins.

Both storefronts face the tree at Fashion Island.

Bell said she has seen people surprised that the tree’s arrived. Sender said she’s seen people taking pictures of the tree, even though it’s still undecorated.

“I think everyone has been in survival mode and are shocked that it’s already the first week of November,” Bell said.

“It’s time to get into the holiday spirit,” she added.

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