From Mt. Shasta to San Clemente – A Tree Story
Yes, it’s true; Outlets at San Clemente’s Christmas tree arrives just before Halloween each year, but the real question isn’t, “Too soon?” It’s, “Why?” Long story short, the reason can be summed up in a single word: logistics. For those of you who prefer the long story long, here it is…
A Guy Named Victor
There’s just something special about that fresh scent of pine that conjures memories of Christmases past, and we are proud to bring a real tree to the center each year for our customers to enjoy. In California, there is only one company that provides full service – securing, installing, decorating and removal – for large (above 30-40 feet) Christmas trees: Victor’s Christmas Trees.
New Kid on the Block
Victor Serrao took over for his father in the family business that’s been delivering trees for more than 50 years, and today, he works with 17 accounts each holiday season. As a benefit for their loyalty, Victor’s older accounts keep their installation dates each year – leaving slim windows to slide in new accounts, such as Outlets at San Clemente at only three years young. And with November and December booked, October seems a more logical choice than January.
Something’s Wrong with Your Math
Seventeen accounts and 55 days between Halloween and Christmas… Isn’t that enough time for everyone to wait a little bit longer? Actually, the process of delivering and decorating our beautiful 80-foot white fir tree from Mt. Shasta is quite complicated and time consuming. It all starts in the summertime…
Christmas in July
“We found a good looking tree for one of your clients,” explains Victor’s contact in the small town of McCloud, California (population: 1,101). Each summer, Victor receives calls from timber farmers in Mt. Shasta, who spot trees that are perfect for spreading holiday cheer that year. The trees are selected not only for great shape and beauty, but also for accessibility.
Heavy equipment is used to bring the tree out of the mountain’s deep timberland, and the utmost care is required. First, a road to the tree and crane pad need to be created, but only after the areas are properly surveyed following EPA guidelines to ensure there are no endangered species or buried artifacts in harm’s way. If everything checks out okay, the tree is officially added to the list.
Stuck in the Mud
Mt. Shasta’s rain/snow season begins in October, and heavy equipment sinks in muddy conditions. A team of McCloud locals – 30-40 jobs are created each holiday season – work to beat the rain and remove each tree. The process takes a full week before the tractor with tree-topped trailer in tow arrives in town and prepares for pick-up by the trucking company for its 1- to 2-day transport to San Clemente.
Wide Load Ahead
California Highway Patrol oversize permits allow a maximum width of 10-feet to travel without restricted times, but an 80-foot tree would look awfully funny with a 10-foot diameter. So, how do they do it? Before loading the tree on the trailer, any branches more than 10-12 feet are removed and carried separately. The remaining branches are tucked in and tied down for transport.
Upon arrival, Outlets at San Clemente’s Center Court is roped off to welcome the tree to its holiday home, and the detailed task of putting it all back together begins. First, the branches are grouped by size. Then, brave workers ride up in lifts to carefully drill small holes – as to not weaken the tree – to wedge in the branches, followed by wiring to help support the weight. More than 550 branches were filled into this year’s tree.
Light It Up
To remain safe for the entire holiday season, the tree receives a flame retardant coating in an evergreen shade, and then it’s time for the decorations! First, 87 strands of 100 lights each are draped from top to bottom. Next, the team decorates the tree with approximately 10,000 bows and ornaments, before the final light testing takes place and all equipment is removed. From center arrival to decoration completion, approximately two weeks have passed, and now, our 80-foot beauty is ready and waiting for the Tree Lighting Celebration on November 17 – the last Saturday before the holiday shopping season’s official Black Friday launch.
There you have it… the true story behind the tree’s early arrival. Trust us, it isn’t easy working a Christmas tree into your free trick-or-treating event, but we do our best with a Jack Skellington character photo opportunity. We understand that it may feel “too soon,” but in a world that can sometimes be dark, we hope your holiday spirit will shine bright a little early and allow a bit of understanding, too.
Your Friends at Outlets at San Clemente
P.S. After the New Year, our tree is recycled into mulch and firewood to provide nutrients and warmth beyond San Clemente. We’re happy to share its beauty with each of you and wish you a wonderful holiday season ahead!