NEWPORT BEACH — Standing in the rain with his arms crossed against his chest and face hidden under his jacket's hood, Bernard Hamilton stared with rapt attention as contractors at Fashion Island lowered this year's Christmas tree into place.
"It's an amazing thing for the local people here," Hamilton, an employee at the concierge desk, said without breaking his concentration on the massive white fir. "It brings something great for the community."
Any other year, there would be plenty of people standing with Hamilton early Friday to watch crews in hard hats work with a crane operator to gently lift, swing and drop the 90-foot tree into place.
But for the first time that anyone here Friday could remember, the weather wasn't cooperating. There were no families or couples looking on; the cold and rain kept them away. Instead, it was a security guard here, an arriving store employee there, watching the precarious process unfold before shoppers descend on the area.
"It's kind of nice, it puts you in the spirit," said Laura Davis, a Fashion Island spokeswoman.
Fashion Island got the tree from a designated area in Mt. Shasta and placed it in the Neiman Marcus-Bloomingdale's Courtyard where it will be decorated over the next two weeks.
The lower half of the tree's trunk looked sparse upon arrival, but crews will add branches to fill it out, Davis said.
Fashion Island's annual tree lighting ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. Nov. 18 and 19. Santa Claus and Disney characters will be there to celebrate with residents for the Nov. 18 ceremony.