NEWPORT BEACH — Chase Valentine, 3, wanted something for Christmas that's little difficult to come by in Orange County: snow.
"It was so cool. On the way over here he said, 'Mom, the twee is so big,'" said Chase's mom, Tiffany Valentine, while nestled on a blanket with the shy tyke at Fashion Island's annual tree-lighting ceremony Friday night.
The Valentines from Newport Beach showed up at 4 p.m. to grab prime real estate in front of the stage where students from Laguna Beach's Musical Theatre University performed alongside Mickey, Minnie and Goofy from the Disneyland Resort.
Showing up just a bit earlier than the Valentines was Newport Beach resident Kimberly Smedeby. Her 16-year-old daughter, Claire Smedeby, attends the Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana and was one of the lucky youths performing with Disney's debut appearance at the annual event.
"Claire grew up in awe of the characters and now she's performing with them," Smedeby said.
The stage was set in front of Fashion Island's 90-foot white fir Christmas tree adorned with more than 20,000 lights and red, silver and gold ornaments. The tree was hoisted in place on a rainy morning Nov. 4.
However, despite Friday's early-morning clouds, the weather became in favor for the crowd. About 5,000 were there by 7 p.m., said Fashion Island spokeswoman Jane Gillespie.
"It's great that we have weather like this with us," said Laura Davis, senior director of marketing of regional centers. "It keeps the holiday mood going."
The shopping center is optimistic about the holiday shopping season, Davis said.
Tesla Motors, Happy Nails and Casey's Cupcakes also opened this week at the Irvine Co.-owned center in time for the shopping rush.
"Obviously, the way people are coming out to celebrate like this shows that they are ready for [the holidays]," Davis said.
The tree was lit just after 6:30 p.m., but not until after the three Disney icons invited the whole audience to join them in singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
Metallic streamers of red, green and silver showered over the stage and audience during the song.
It wasn't snow, but it was close.
"Kids don't normally sit though shows, but they love this," Valentine said. "The music, the lights, Santa — it's a great way to start the season."