As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a family.
But it also takes a family to raise a village ... a gingerbread village, that is.
Every year for the past 43 years, a construction crew of all ages shows up at on Tucker Hill Road.
Tables are covered in candy and the list of supplies is almost as long as Santa's Nice List.
- 250 lbs. of flour
- 12 lbs. of powdered meringue
- 4 lbs. of ginger
- 2 lbs. of nutmeg
- 80 lbs. of margarine
- 78 lbs. of granulated sugar
- 60 lbs. of confectioner's sugar
- 12 gallons of molasses
- 2 lbs. of baking soda
- 1 lb. of salt
- 10 lbs. of candy sprinkles
- An assortment of different varieties of candy
Marta Van Hoose of Waterbury said the candy is collected by the gingerbread team all year long, from all kinds of places.
"We always look for unique candy," she said. "When we travel, we look."
Van Hoose grinned and leaned forward as if she were about to impart a secret.
"When they make a new cracker, we get excited," she said. "They could be shingles or shutters."
Visiting the Village
The village opens on Saturday, Dec. 3, and closes Saturday, Dec. 10. There is no admission fee and parking is free. The church is handicapped accessible.
Group outings may be arranged by calling Barbara at 203-758-9557.
Holiday revelers may view the village during the following hours:
- 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3
- 11:30 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3: Luncheon
- Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4
- 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4: Dessert
- 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5 through Friday, Dec. 9
- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, December 10
Each year, the gingerbread village has a theme. This year, it's "Christmas Around the World."
All the gingerbread houses are for sale. Assorted Christmas crafts and tag sale items may be purchased, along with gingerbread men.
The Maine Woman on the Team
Jan Murray is the go-to woman for all things gingerbread. She used to live in Connecticut but travels quite a long way to the construction site.
"I moved to Maine, but I still come back when I can," she said, referring to this most magical time of year: gingerbread time.
Murray worked diligently on a balcony for one of the houses, piping white frosting onto a sheet of parchment showing the outline of the balcony. The fine craftsmanship will take about two days to dry, she said.
Throughout the gingerbread workshop, the elves were busily constructing, occasionally seeking feedback on their creations.
"I need an idea for a dock."
"Where's the closest grocery store?"
"Four Corners and it closes at seven."
"I need to get more pretzels."
Van Hoose was working on an Australian house. She used to bring her children to view the village before becoming a gingerbread elf herself.
This year marks Prospect resident Richard Newhart's fourth year working on the village. He was introduced to the village by Van Hoose, who said Newhart is a treasure to have on the team.
Bringing the Generations Together With Gingerbread
Karen Bavaro-Lawlor and her son Matthew Lawlor are from Watertown. The village is truly a generational experience.
Children start out working on houses when they are small and continue doing so when they become tall.
Bavaro-Lawlor's teenage son Matthew started working on the village when he was young and continues to create. This year, he was working on making shingles out of sticks of gum.
The Family Who Bakes Together Stays Together
The Stowell family was well-represented in the gingerbread workshop. Karen Stowell intricately painted apples on a gingerbread sign for a house, while Geoffrey Stowell created windows by cutting out the middle part of a piece of gingerbread and filling it with yellow and white hard candy ground into a powder.
He then baked the piece of gingerbread and when it came out, the candy was hardened and together, the effect looked like a brightly lit window.
Bill Stowell helps create homes every year and young Chris Stowell already completed one of his homes: a small, brown house covered in candy stones.
Van Hoose measured her gingerbread house with a ruler to make sure she was placing the roof on the best spot for support.
"Doing this makes you look at food a whole new way," she said. "Food and architecture."
When it comes to the gingerbread village, seeing is believing.
"Nobody understands how awesome it is until they come here," she said.