Kids build sweet homes at Rowan Museum’s gingerbread house workshop

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Hugh Fisher
“Home for the holidays” means different things to different people.
For the kids who gathered at Rowan Museum to decorate gingerbread houses Sunday, it meant gumdrops on the gables, candy-cane pillars by the door and … pretzels?
“The front door mat is a pretzel,” said Andrew Bradshaw, 7. “And the back door mat is Froot Loops.”
The colorful cereal and square pretzels were among the many creative ó and tasty ó building materials Rowan Museum volunteers provided for kids to use in their construction projects.
Andrew and his mother, Crystal Bradshaw, of Salisbury, came to last year’s gingerbread house party. This is the fourth year the museum has hosted this event, upstairs in the former Rowan County courthouse.
“We had so much fun doing it last year, we had to come back,” Crystal Bradshaw said.
Kids and families sat at round tables and decorated the gingerbread houses, which came preassembled by volunteers.
For a small fee, each child got a house to decorate, refreshments and a photo with Santa Claus.
Tables around the perimeter of the room were laden with peppermint ribbon candy (perfect for chimneys), marshmallows (for siding or snowdrifts) and gumdrops (for just about everything else).
“We’ve got M&Ms and cereal, candy canes and sprinkles,” museum board member Carol Palmer said.
“We figure they’ll eat as much as they put on the houses.”
Popcorn was also offered as a distraction from the sweets, but there was still plenty of sugar-fueled energy in the room.
The museum hosted families in three shifts Sunday, board member Meg Dees said.
The program has grown more popular in its fourth year. One family even held their daughter’s birthday party at a gingerbread-house session.
“We had 65 houses prepared,” Dees said. “I’d say our attendance is comparable to last year.”
The festive setting let entire families get in on the act of decorating houses. Sharon Whittington used the time to visit with her grandchildren, Bree Whittington, 4, and Mya Whittington, 2.
Mya and her mother, Kate, drove from Raleigh to be with their family just for the event.
Bree’s house had a fairy-tale back story:
“The three little piggies live in the house,” Bree said.
And a gingerbread-man ornament that came with the house was transformed, with icing and candy, into the Big Bad Wolf.
“We’ve done this since she was 14 months old,” said her mother, Ellen Whittington, of Salisbury. “It’s become a family tradition.”
“This is our first experience, but it’s fun just being with family,” Kate said.
At another table, Lauren Templeton, 4, and sister Madeline, 3, decorated their own houses. A grandparent helped each with the “heavy lifting” tasks and applied the white icing to hold the houses together.
The girls were dressed alike and could have passed for twins, but their houses were very different.
“She says, ‘I’m independent,’ ” granddad John Bumgarner said on behalf of Madeline.
Lauren led a tour of her house. “This is my chimney,” she said, pointing to a peppermint ribbon. “This is my rooftop, and I put my candy cane right here,” she said, pointing to the spot by the door where she’d placed it for emphasis.
“I love my house!” she said.
“I had to come,” Bumgarner said. “My favorite part was just coming in here with them.”
And though it might be sugary, somewhat messy fun, that’s what museum volunteers said made them love the afternoon spent building a gingerbread village.
“I love watching the children and seeing them be creative,” Dees said. “Some children have come here every year, and I just watch them grow.”