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Morgan Milovich Dr. Boyle JRM219 – A Online Final Draft 12/7/11 Gingerbread Festival Celebrating its 26th anniversary, the annual Gingerbread Festival is being held at the Mormon Trail Center now though Jan 1. Sandy Johnson has been working at the Gingerbread Festival since it started 26 years ago. She said the festival originally started with 15 housesand has continued to grow each year. “There were so many people, you couldn’t move until the person in front of you moved,” Johnson said. The festival has always taken place at the Mormon Trail Center; however, it was originally in a small, run-down house. Johnson said the building of the gingerbread housesstarted becausechurch members wanted to raise money for a new church building. That year, 250 houseswere sold. Johnson said the festival was an offshoot of the building fund project. More than three-fourths of the original founders still participate in the Gingerbread Festival. If they don’t build the house themselves, their children and grandchildren build them with them. Johnson said it played a huge role in community and family bonding. This year there are 101 gingerbread housesentered in the festival. Tiffany Tilton, a host of the festival, said anyone could enter a gingerbread house in the festival. She said cub scouts, young womens’ groups, church congregations, families, and non-church members enter houseseach year. We didn’t make a gingerbread house this year, but our church congregation did,” Tilton said. Tilton and her family have been attending the festival for the last six years. If families or groups don’t want to decorate gingerbread houses, they can decorate a Christmas tree for display. Each year, a new theme is chosen. This year, the theme is “The Joys of Childhood.” Loa McLaws, the main decorator for the festival, has been attending the Gingerbread Festival for the last eight years. McLaws said anyone could participate in the festival. The Saturday before Thanksgiving is always the busiest. Throughout the holiday season, the festival averages25,000to 30,000 visitors.

School groups, nursing homes, church communities, and families all come to visit the festival. McLaws said it’s just as fun to watch the kids, as it is to watch the adults. The festival is interactive where visitors can go on a scavenger hunt to see al the details of the houses. “It’s an absolute thrill to see the children come in,” McLaws said. “Wow.” The festival is a great way to get in the holiday spirit. McLaws told the story of one community member who started attending the festival with her children, and this year she brought her first great-grandchild. It has become a tradition. The Gingerbread festival is open everyday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. except on Christmas Eve where it is open until 4 p.m. The festival is closed on Christmas Day. McLaws said the best day to visit would be Dec 3 after 4 p.m. She said there would be bells and harps playing sporadically throughout the evening. It’s a great night for the students to come in and visit. The festival is open to the public with free admission at the Mormon Trail Center in Florence. A similar festival is also going on at the Mormon Trail Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Sources: Sandy Johnson: Tiffany Tilton: Loa McLaws:


Tilton and her family have been attending the festival for the last six years. If families or groups don’t want to decorate gingerbread hous...

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