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Gingerbread Village opens tonight

The sixth annual Gingerbread Village is set to inspire the holiday spirit at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The event begins tonight with an opening reception at 6 p.m. and runs through Dec. 19.

“The Gingerbread Village is one of my favorite Ford Center events,” said Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director. “I love seeing the creativity of the displays and joy of the visitors to the village. We hope that through the village, we can bring some holiday spirit to the community and give back a little through collecting donations to the Oxford Pantry and Ole Miss Food Bank.”

The exhibit started with four houses in its first year. This year is expected to be the largest village to date, with more than 25 houses designed by local businesses and organizations, Meacham said. Also, more than 1,200 schoolchildren are scheduled to visit and view the display, she said.

Michelle Zerangue and her family have participated in the Gingerbread Village since its first year.

“I have always loved the idea of the village being a display for everyone to enjoy, but also a community service project that helps to stock the local pantries during the holiday season,” Zerangue said. “In participating each year, we play a part in helping our community with a fun tradition that we have been able to build on each year as a family.

“Every year, building a display has also been a personal challenge to build something better than the previous year. It is just one more way for us to be able to share the joy and traditions of the holiday season with others.”

Christine Wallace, director of University and Public Events, and her team have joined with Ole Miss Catering to design a house this year. Wallace also has been involved since the event’s inception.

“We participate because everyone needs a little winter magic,” Wallace said. “It is a time to reflect, enjoy and celebrate. We enjoy bringing this magic to our campus colleagues and our community.”

In addition to the display, the exhibit includes a variety of events for children. Santa will be in the village for photos from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 13, along with university choir carolers. On Dec. 17, a story time for big kids is set for 3:30 p.m., and on Dec. 18, toddler and preschool story time is slated for 10:30 a.m.

The Gingerbread Village display is free and open to the public, but donations of canned goods and nonperishable food items are encouraged. All donated items will benefit the Oxford Pantry and Ole Miss Food Bank.