For Southern Californians, excursions in the snow are typically found in the mountains or out of state. But on Saturday morning 40 tons of snow descended on Costa Mesa's Balearic Community Center.
For many, the experience was a first.
Horacio Berruecos, 12, made a bowling ball-sized creation — sometimes a snowman, sometimes a snowball — as he stood in the slush, an ear-to-ear grin across his face.
"This is the first time I've ever seen snow," the Adams Elementary School student said. "It's great. It's beautiful. I've never seen something so white."
Marilyn Baker came to the Holiday Snow Land event, which is hosted annually by Torelli Realty, with her 3-year-old granddaughter Karis. While Baker grew up in Chicago and Michigan, it was Karis' first time seeing the white, fluffy stuff.
Naturally, she kneeled to dig a hole as many children do in the sands of Southern California beaches.
"This brings back memories," Baker said. "It just makes it feel more like the holidays … makes you want to move back home, actually," she said laughing.
Alex Chavez, 20, of Costa Mesa, attended the event with his mom, sister and little brother. Natives of El Salvador, Chavez said his family has lived in Southern California for about 10 years and Saturday's event was the first time he touched snow.
"It's really cold," Chavez said. "It's nice, too."
He and his family threw snowballs at each other and hope to make a trip to visit colder climates soon.
Along with the winter landscape, two teenage Belgian Percherons pulled a wagon full of families around the park and about 800 people were expected at the three-hour event, said Valerie Torelli, founder of Torelli Realty.
In addition to playing in the snow, children stood elbow-to-elbow at the popular cookie decorating station, where piles of frosting and sprinkles hid their cookie foundations below.
"What their mothers won't allow them to do, we encourage them to do," Torelli said of the creative pastries.
Diane Rice, of Lake Forest, attended with her sister and a total of eight children "just to play in the snow."
"Why not?" she said. "Snow, cookies, Santa — this might be the only time they see snow this season."
"And snowmans!" chimed in 6-year-old Mikayla, a ribbon of orange frosting hiding in the corner of her mouth.
Torelli said the event began as 15 tons of snow behind Torelli Realty's offices, and morphed into a larger event at the park. At one point, snow descended down the park's hill where children could toboggan down.
"That's what I'm asking Santa for," Torelli said. "The manpower to have it on the hill."