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Musical 'flash mob' evacuates mall

Overcrowding causes floor to pop, creak
By: Lien Hoang, The Press Tribune
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They wanted spontaneity, and they got it, several times over.

In a so-called flash mob, hundreds of choral singers descended on the Galleria’s food court around 7 p.m. Monday, bringing with them thousands of spectators.

A couple pops, a few creaks and a shifting second floor later, security, police and fire officials were evacuating the entire mall. Over the loudspeaker, they told attendees the floor could collapse.

In no time, thousands of vehicles were clogging the parking lot and streets, forcing fire trucks to drive against traffic and create their own lanes to get to the Galleria.

From a helicopter, officials ordered people to get into their vehicles or leave the promenade, where many of the singers and listeners had gathered. Joyfully defying officers, the choir members rang out with cries of “O Holy Night,” “We wish you a merry Christmas,” and of course, Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.

The Sacramento Choral Society was scheduled to sing from “Messiah” at 7:30 p.m., following in the footsteps of so many flash mobs on Youtube. In videos - one of which received 24 million views - other choirs surprise shoppers when embedded singers break out into song.

But by publicizing their plans online, the local groups attracted hordes of people to the mall for more of a concert than a flash mob.

Police reported receiving between 40 and 50 911 calls from shoppers warning of dangerous overcrowding. They dispatched 10 police cars, in addition to the five fire engines, one truck and four ambulances.

“It’s way out of control,” Laura Fayes as she crossed Roseville Parkway on foot. “They should have stopped people as they were coming in.”

She parked across the street and came for the show. But Jeremy Scott just wanted to shop. Instead, he waited on the fourth floor of the parking garage for cars to clear out, with some waiting more than an hour.

“It was crazy, it was packed, you couldn’t walk anywhere,” Scott said of the food court, adding that the rest of the mall was normal. “I should have went home.”

Except for a few shoves, the evacuation ended smoothly. In fact, minutes after the helicopter’s warning, an official announced by megaphone that the mall might reopen.

“Feel free to stay and sing and have a good time,” the official said.

The mall stayed closed, but anchor stores and restaurants at the promenade remained open.

A fire department spokesman said mall officials knew about the pending concert and described the movement at the food court as what one might see in a minor earthquake. No injuries were reported.

Lien Hoang can be reached at lienh@goldcountrymedia.com.