In the winter of 2005, Proctor resident Cheryl Deloach needed something fun to do with her grandson and two great-nieces. She decided to help the kids build and decorate their own gingerbread houses. The kids had fun, so she decided they'd make it an annual event and invite a few more relatives next year.
Eleven years later, Deloach's annual gingerbread decorating party has grown to 31 children, parents, relatives, extended family, friends and her mother.
"This year the group consisted of everyone from ages 1 to 91. My kitchen and front room were pretty packed," Deloach said.
And this year's party was held a few weeks earlier than usual because all of the decorated gingerbread houses are part of a display at the Proctor Area Historical Society, 100 Pionk Drive.
"We try to change out our exhibits fairly often and I wanted to do something for Christmas. When one of our members told me about Cheryl's houses, I thought they'd make a great exhibit," said Jan Resberg, Proctor Area Historical Society president.
Deloach bakes all the gingerbread from scratch a few days before the party.
"It's a process, let me tell you. But the house smells very good while I'm doing it," Deloach said. "I kind of miss that smell right now, with all the houses at the museum now."
After the gingerbread has properly cooled, Deloach whips up her homemade secret frosting recipe to handcraft all the houses. She says the secret to a sturdy house is in the frosting.
"I have a special recipe for frosting that holds it all together. In fact I dropped one on the floor yesterday and it did not break. It landed on the roof and it did not break," Deloach said.
Then it's time to let the children decorate. Deloach whips up more frosting and puts out candy, pretzels, sprinkles and cookies on the dining room table for the children to decorate. The kids have carte blanche to decorate as they please.
"It gets a little hectic, but it's all in fun," Deloach said.
Usually the houses go home with each of the kids, but this year all 31 were moved to the museum. Accompanying the houses is a Christmas tree decorated by gingerbread cutouts created by Bayview Elementary School second graders. The rest of the museum is decorated with paper chains made by the same students.
The exhibit opens on Saturday, Dec. 10 with an opening reception 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The exhibit runs Dec. 10-17, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.