Mary Figueroa - Guest Blogger: Youth Interpreter
During the holiday season homes are filled with the sweet smells of treats, cake, cookies, pie, and, of course, gingerbread. But for my gingerbread team and me, the baking begins long before the holidays. The team, which includes Ty Willis, Luke Serauskis, and me, begins planning and preparation for the gingerbread season in late September. I was originally inspired to create a gingerbread team, while walking through Conner Prairie’s Gingerbread Village
, during a Youth Volunteer Party in 2008. So, in 2009, I decided to start a team and make a gingerbread house for the Gingerbread Village. We had a fantastic time making the house and walking through the Gingerbread Village displays.
This year, we have created a total of 5 edible creations: two specialty cakes and three gingerbread houses. But my favorite house to make was the Golden Eagle Inn gingerbread house, which we made for the Gingerbread Village. We were asked to create a house that would represent Conner Prairie’s Prairietown, so of course we chose to make the Golden Eagle Inn, which is the town’s only inn run by Mrs. Zimmerman and her family. I have volunteered, as a first-person interpreter, at the Golden Eagle for 5 years and have learned so much, like how to cook, garden, churn butter and care for animals. But the best part of acquiring this knowledge of 1836 is being able to share it with the guests of Conner Prairie, and get them involved with these activities.
When creating the gingerbread house replica, I wanted to capture the spirit of the Inn and all fun chores and activities that make the Inn what it is. This starts with the details. Our main details were the 1836 woman, a butter churn, a small teapot, and, of course, Jefferson the cat. All of our details were made out of rice cereal treats covered in modeling chocolate, which is an edible play-doh. The actual structure was probably the most difficult and stressful part of creating the house. We made a total of 16 gingerbread pieces with the biggest piece being fourteen inches wide and 12 inches tall. After all the pieces were baked, we added the windows and siding. The Golden Eagle has a total of 16 windows. These were created using isomalt sugar, which is a sturdier sugar, that was poured into the previously cut holes of the gingerbread. All of the beautiful white siding was put on piece by piece, which took about 8 hours. When we were finally done with the siding and the windows had set, we began to attach the pieces using royal icing (praying they wouldn’t fall apart). This took a little over an hour. To complete the house, the team placed the details, put on some icicles, and added some snow, creating a beautiful Golden Eagle Inn.
The creation of the Inn was very rewarding. It combined my love of Conner Prairie with my love of gingerbread. The team and I received so much support from our families (especially my dad and mom), friends, and the Conner Prairie Staff. The Gingerbread Village will be open till January 2, 2011. I hope you will come and see the Golden Eagle and all the other wonderful gingerbread creations.
“Did you see the Conner Estate one? WOW!”
“I really like the hamburger!”
“I can’t pick my favorite. The gingerbread houses are all amazing this year!”
This was a snippet of a conversation I overheard a family having earlier this month as they viewed the Gingerbread Village
display in The Welcome Center. I have to agree: this year’s entries are some of the best Conner Prairie Interactive History Park has ever had.
Viewing these gingerbread houses (and it’s a shame to ONLY call them houses) is an indoor holiday treat for the entire family. Children’s eyes light up, grandparents wax nostalgic, and mom and dad get to enjoy an activity designed to enhance the holiday season. Once the family has “oohed” and “aahed” over the gingerbread entries, there are other amusements, such as Discovery Station
play area, Craft Corner
, a short animated film, and the Science Lab
, all open for your family’s enjoyment.
This event is free for members, and only $5 for nonmembers, so a visit to The Welcome Center at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park won’t strain the Christmas budget. The gingerbread houses will be on display throughout the month of December until January 2, 2011, so you still have time to drop by and pick your favorite – if you can!