Gingerbread city popular among yuletide visitors

Construction is booming in this city – gingerbread construction that is.

More than 225 creations, including a castle, football stadium, barn, village and a variety of houses are on display until Dec. 22. This is the 10th year of the free event, held this year at the Institute of Religion and sponsored by the Omaha Nebraska Region."This display is our gift to the community," said Joyce Harrop, director of public affairs for the Winter Quarters Historical Site.

The display, "Gingerbread on Parade," opened Nov. 18 with remarks and a ribbon cutting ceremony by Omaha Mayor Hal Daub. He then viewed the display, escorted by Kurtis Cornish, Omaha Nebraska Stake president; Louis Butler, Papillion Nebraska Stake president; Jack Bangerter, Nebraska Omaha Mission president; and Kenneth Barker, director of the Winter Quarters Historical Site. Local television covered the event.

Elder Barker said, "I'm thrilled and pleased with the opportunity to provide this beautiful display to brighten the holidays for many people and give them a wonderful introduction to the Church."

Many of the gingerbread creations were the results of family, Church youth group and Relief Society efforts. Ward gingerbread specialists coordinated the activities, furnishing recipes and instruction in construction and decoration. Also, this year, for the first time, youth groups outside the Church contributed to the display.

The fragrance of gingerbread, twinkling lights on trees and music welcome visitors. Missionaries and local Church members are on hand with a greeting and invitation to tour the display. Guests are invited to view the five-minute Church video "Luke 2." Church pamphlets and copies of the Book of Mormon are also available. Gingerbread men are handed out to guests as they leave.

The event began 10 years ago as a fund-raiser for the new stake center and evolved the next year into a stake public affairs project. Now a regional public affairs project, it draws an increasing number of visitors each year. Last year, more than 15,000 attended the event.

This year the display is held at the Institute of Religion because of construction of a new visitor's center at the Winter Quarters Historical Site, and due largely to the space demands of the popular Christmas event. Upon completion of the new center, the display will return to the Winter Quarters site.

"At the close of the display, the houses will be given to shut-ins, children's hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions to be enjoyed for the remainder of the holidays," Sister Harrop said.