Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Winter WonderSLO

Each winter break, I look forward to the return of the Winter WonderSLO ice rink in the Expo Center. The 4,500 square feet of real ice create a frosty, festive atmosphere that make a perfect activity for families, couples, and friends.  And, with part of the proceeds supporting the SLO Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, this holiday activity is not only a fun tradition for locals, but also beneficial for the community.

 This year, the rink is open until January 3rd, so check out the Winter WonderSLO website for skate session times and ticked reservations ASAP! 

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Holiday Tradition

Decorations at the Madonna Inn have often taken on a life of their own. With each holiday, our creative team spends weeks transforming the Inn into a uniquely whimsical expression of the season; with Winter often requiring the most planning, preparation, and time.  And this careful attention to all things aesthetically fun and festive is certainly nothing new.

  From the time of the Inn's inception, Mr. and Mrs. Madonna (Grandpa and Grandma) would take great pride in making sure the Inn's interior and exterior looked superbly cheerful. In fact, their love for the holiday spirit was actually so strong that the embellishments eventually extended beyond the walls of the hotel and restaurants and all the way to the tippy-top of Cerro San Luis "Madonna" Mountain.

Beginning in the mid-1970s, Grandpa would erect a giant lit "tree" for Christmas and a lit cross for Easter at the top of the mountain behind the Inn. This began after he bought the Bianchi ranch property in 1972, and built a road upon the parcel of this ranch that stretched to the top of the mountain.

With 11 strands of red and white glowing lights strung from a 30-foot aluminum mast, the tree lights up the night sky each night of December and through the New Year. In years past, the tree would be lit only for the 12 days of Christmas, however more recently the tree has gone up on December 1st so that the community can enjoy it for a little longer. The tree takes roughly a day to set up and has been rebuilt numerous times throughout the years to withstand the elements. Since the '70s, it has been a tradition for SLOcals to hike to the top of the mountain near dark to enjoy the lights. Even for those who don't make the trek to the top, the tree is a beacon of holiday cheer that reaches for miles.

By the way... in case you've ever wondered, the tree's nightly illumination is not the feat of a timer, remote, or even magic. Rather, every evening - rain or shine - a Madonna Inn employee must travel up to the top of the mountain at dusk to turn on the generator that powers the lights.This year, my younger brother Dalton has been given this important task. So if you see him driving up the mountain in his work truck around sunset, make sure to give him a wave. And if you get too tired of hiking, he might even give you a lift to the top!