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Winter wonderland blows into Costa Mesa’s Balearic Park

Ryder Kirkspiers, 10, center, sprints to the snow during the annual holiday Snow Land event on Saturday at Balearic Park.
Ryder Kirkspiers, 10, center, sprints to the snow during the annual holiday Snow Land event sponsored by Torelli Realty on Saturday at Balearic Park in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Snow came to Costa Mesa’s Balearic Community Center early Saturday morning, not through Mother Nature’s hand but through the work and planning of Realtor Valerie Torelli, who created her first Snow Land in 1989 and never looked back.

Torelli recalled seeing the city of Costa Mesa blowing snow in the park for an employee event in the late 1980s and becoming inspired to create her very own neighborhood winter wonderland.

“I called the city and said I’m going to pay for it and sponsor it and take it to the next level,” she said. “And we’ve never missed a year until last year, when they wouldn’t let us do it.”

Sean Norris sprinkles snow over his daughter, Kayla, 6, during the annual Snow Land event.
Sean Norris sprinkles snow over his daughter, Kayla, 6, as she runs around during the annual Snow Land event.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Balearic Snow Land is one of several Torelli Realty-sponsored events throughout the year, along with annual neighborhood garage sales, an Easter egg hunt, Fourth of July parade and an in-house pumpkin patch, where clients can score a free gourd during Halloween.

But for people who live in Costa Mesa’s Mesa Verde neighborhood, Balearic Snow Land is a prime opportunity to get out and meet one another, enjoy wintertime treats and take photos with Santa Claus.

Kate Thomas, 10, forms a snow angel as her mother, Erica, left, takes a picture.
Kate Thomas, 10, forms a snow angel as her mother, Erica, left, takes a picture.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

In years past, Saint Nick has made his arrival by fire engine and, for several years, landed on site via helicopter. On Saturday, with the pandemic still wearing on, Santa’s grand entrance included a convertible and fire department escort.

In addition to trouncing through nearly 50 tons of snow, kids enjoyed a bounce house, cookie decorating, pony rides and a petting zoo. It’s not an elaborate fete, Torelli said, just something intended to generate a little holiday spirit.

Valerie Torelli, founder of Torelli Realty, greets visitors as they line up for the annual Snow Land event.
Valerie Torelli, founder of Torelli Realty, greets visitors as they line up for the annual Snow Land event on Saturday at Balearic Park in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“It doesn’t have to be big,” she added. “It just has to be from the heart.”

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