Gingerbread Village grows in popularity

Published 6:00 am Sunday, December 6, 2015

When the Gertrude Ford Performing Arts Center held the first Gingerbread Village in 2010, there were four houses on display. The following year it jumped to 10.

Five years later, the event has grown in popularity and participation. For this year’s event, there will be 27 sugary displays. The displays themselves have also grown, from a simple gingerbread home or small village in the first year to full farm scenes, replicas of buildings on the University of Mississippi campus and even Willy Wonka’s chocolate river garden scene at last year’s event.

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The Gingerbread Village opened Thursday and will remain until Dec. 19. Times vary but the display is generally open at 1 p.m. on weekdays, noon on Saturdays and Sunday; however, check for exact times.

On Dec. 12, Santa will be visiting the Ford Center and will be available for photos. At 3:30 p.m. Dec. 17, Ole Miss baseball player Brady Bramlett will read to children during Big Kid Story Time. At 10:30 a.m. Dec. 18, Sonya Bjork will read during Toddler/Preschool Story Time.

Kate Meacham, marketing director for the Ford Center, said the Gingerbread Village is a free event and there are no plans to charge in future, despite its rapid growth and popularity.

“It was created to be, and has been, a way for the Ford Center to give something back to the community,” Meacham said.

More than 1,100 school kids from throughout Lafayette County will visit the Village once it opens Thursday for school trips.

The University Museum will shuttle people to the Village during its Santa’s Workshop for its monthly Family Activity Day starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Many of the villages are group projects like the Oxford Mom and Tots village that will consist of about 24 small graham cracker homes all made by area children who met at Holli’s Sweet Tooth Monday and Tuesday. Holli’s will have its own, separate display, as the candy store has done since the first year the village has been at the Ford Center. It’s the fourth year the Oxford Mom and Tots group has participated.

“We prepared the graham cracker houses and then invited kids to come and decorate them,” said Jennifer Samuels who manages the popular Oxford Mom and Tots Facebook group and website.

While the Gingerbread Village is a winter wonderland with confections of all kinds, the annual event is also a time when the community can lend a helping hand to those less fortunate.

The event is free, but organizers ask those coming to the exhibit bring canned food that will be given to the The Pantry of Oxford and the Ole Miss Food Bank.

The University of Mississippi Office of Sustainability decided to get in the on the fun this year and create their own version of a Gingerbread House by creating making a “green” house.

“Our gingerbread house property is equipped with sustainable features such as solar panels, compost piles, a garden, rain barrels and easy access to a transit stop,” said Lindsey Abernathy with the Office of Sustainability. “We thought that building a gingerbread house was a unique educational opportunity to help illustrate different sustainable features that a home can have, as well as why those features are important. We also thought it would be a fun activity for the office staff.”

Abernathy admitted building a “sustainable” gingerbread house was harder than her group expected.

“But putting the finishing touches on the house – little details like rabbits in the garden and ‘sharrows’ on the way – was very fun,” she said.