A few years ago, the Montage Resort decided to “give back” to the Laguna Beach community with an awesome, enormous tree-lighting ceremony and Open House event.

The very first year, the grounds were packed with more than 1,000 people and it’s only mushroomed from there. This year, the Montage Holiday Open House takes place this coming Monday, Dec. 1st, beginning at 4:30 p.m. 

It’s the quintessential holiday event with hot cocoa, food goodies, children’s activities, live music, carolers and more. The Resort’s restaurants (Studio and The Loft) as well as the Lobby Lounge are usually overflowing with happy business – you’re welcome to wade in and join the throngs. Additionally, Hearts of Montage will be presenting the Friendship Shelter of Laguna Beach a generous donation for the wonderful, continued work they do. In return, the Montage Resort asks one favor of you: Bring a food item to donate to the Laguna Food Pantry.  Decorating the Montage Holiday Tree

Behind the scenes: The Tale of the Montage Holiday Tree.

From the very beginning, Laguna Beach longtime resident Chris Karl has been the primary designer for the entire tree-lighting event.

A part of the Ambius national team, Chris’ daily mission is to make every public place even more beautiful with interior landscaping design and commercial holiday decor … what a great daily job all year long!

While Chris and his team are all over the L.A. basin during the holiday season (Rodeo Drive to the Nixon Library and back home here again), the 62-foot Montage Holiday Tree is, indeed, a unique undertaking. For starters, the White Fir is selected at the Northern California/Oregon border near Mt. Shasta.It’s trundled to Northridge where it’s cleaned up and prepped for the big time. Then it’s trucked down to Aliso Creek Beach’s parking lot. A flatbed truck meets the tree and takes on its charge to ramble across the beach, through the creek ravine somehow, and up the winding Montage Resort walkway from Treasure Island Beach. (I guess you could say it’s our beachy version of “over the river and through the woods” kind of activity.)

At the top of the Montage walkway, a swarm of Ambius and Montage staff welcome the tree with a really large crane. Check out this great video of the Montage Holiday Tree’s  arrival: Montage Holiday Tree arriving Then the real work begins – hoisting this towering behemoth into its 7-foot hole (Chris came up with the idea of a large tube to slot the trunk into, which keeps the tree from leaning when rain or wind occurs).

The process of righting  the tree absolutely vertically has become something of an annual, good natured ritual between the Ambius team and Montage management, who stand in the Lobby Lounge in a certain tile circular design – the very spot that should proffer a square-on view of the top of the Montage Holiday tree.

See this video for the beginning of that process. Montage Holiday Tree Lighting

After devoted hours of pulling on this cable or that to ensure the tree is standing straight and tall, the crane steps away from the tree and trundles away, leaving the Ambius team with the almost overwhelming job of stringing the lights.

How many lights does it take to string the Montage Holiday Tree? A mere 36,000  … or so.

Because Chris Karl’s Ambius team has this down to a science now, the work on the tree requires a 4-man team for two full days. Then, the team also strings all the palm trees that surround the large Montage pool. (Piece of cake after the initial tree is completed, notes Karl.)

After the tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 1st, the tree will remain lit every night through the end of December.

Whether you join the many on Dec. 1st, or choose a quieter stroll and view of the lights of the Montage Resort, make sure you slot it in your schedule for a memorable holiday treat. For me – as I’m sure it is for the thousands who flock to the annual tree lighting event this Dec. 1st – the Montage Holiday tree is the perfect start to the magic, wonder and spirit of the Christmas season.   Ambius team lights the Montage Holiday Tree

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