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By Karen Hendricks, PR/Marketing Director

It might not be as dramatic as Miracle on 34th Street, or It’s a Wonderful Life, but an amazing holiday story is unfolding before our eyes at the Gettysburg Festival.  It revolves around children and the true Christmas spirit of giving—what better holiday themes are there?  

The Festival’s upcoming Gingerbread House Celebration, December 3 and 4, includes a Gingerbread House Workshop where children will be able to squeeze frosting and adorn gingerbread houses with gumdrops, Necco wafers, mints, candy canes and any other candies that aren’t popped into their mouths first.  Just imagining the scene brings the phrase “like a kid in a candy store” to mind. 

With that scene in our heads during an event planning meeting, one of our most generous sponsors and supporters, Phillip Murray, General Manager of the Gettysburg Hotel, hit upon a fantastic idea.  Mr. Murray suggested we ask area businesses or individuals to sponsor underprivileged children to attend the workshop—children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to create gingerbread houses this holiday season.  In fact, he reached for his checkbook on the spot, and declared that he would sponsor the first 10 children with a check for $150.  He has challenged friends, colleagues and business leaders to do the same.  As of today, two other community leaders have stepped forward and responded—Stephanie Stephan of the James Gettys Hotel and Ed Goldwalt of Mr. Ed’s Elephant Musuem & Candy Store.  

That means 30 area children (so far) will be creating gingerbread houses, along with holiday memories, thanks to their generosity and good will.  The event is also open to the public, at the cost of $15 to cover supplies, with nearly another 30 children signed up to date.

The next step:  I reached out to a contact at a local agency serving low-income families in hopes that she could help me find 30 children, quickly.  I left her a voicemail, followed by an e-mail, explaining our holiday offer.

She returned my call within the hour, sounding out-of-breath, excited, amazed.  Her weekly program was meeting that evening, and she was struggling to finalize some holiday plans for her group, comprised of families with children.  She was going out-of-town for more than a week, beginning with the Thanksgiving holiday.  She wanted to fulfill a request the children had made only the week before, and she was surfing the internet, trying to figure out how she was going to make it happen.

You see, at the previous week’s get-together, she asked the children for ideas for a holiday activity.  What would they like to do, or make, to celebrate the holiday season?  Their answer?  Make gingerbread houses.

There was silence on the phone, probably lasting only five seconds or so, but long enough for this moment of serendipity to send a spine-tingling chill down my back.  Who would have thought that little houses made of gingerbread cookies could hold the promise of such immense joy?

Golden Tickets a la Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

So this week, we are creating “golden tickets” at the Gettysburg Festival and distributing them to children served by her agency and others.  If additional sponsors step forward, I’ll be glad to make a few more calls and brighten the holidays for area children… with gingerbread.

By Karen Hendricks, Festival PR/Marketing Director

The holiday season, more so than any other time of year, seems to be a time to uphold traditions—family, ethnic and community traditions alike.  Here at Gettysburg Festival, we are embarking on a new holiday event that we hope becomes a Gettysburg tradition as well—A Gingerbread House Celebration.  The inaugural event is set for December 3 and 4 at the Historic Gettysburg Hotel located on Lincoln Square, lead sponsor for the event. 

More than a dozen gingerbread house creators from all across Pennsylvania and Maryland are donating houses for display during the event.  The lucky high bidders will be able to take home these stunning creations for some truly unique holiday displays.  Many of the event’s components spread holiday cheer, while also serving as a fundraiser for our non-profit organization.  Click here to learn more about the event, purchase tickets (only $10), or register for the Children’s Gingerbread Workshop (only $15).  There is even information on how you can sponsor area underprivileged children and allow them to participate in the workshop.

But back to the notion of gingerbread.  The Festival’s media partner for this event, Celebrate Gettysburg magazine, includes a fascinating history of gingerbread in their current issue.  The following is an excerpt from writer Michael Vyskocil’s article:

Do you remember baking gingerbread Christmas cookies as a child? If so, you probably remember how the whole house smelled like the holidays. The unmistakable combination of spices—ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves—gives gingerbread its characteristic flavor. Gingerbread scents the Christmas season, providing a fragrance as alluring as fresh evergreens but every bit edible.

Gingerbread has a long and rich culinary history that dates back to medieval times, according to some culinary sources. During the Middle Ages, this dense, spiced bread may have been shared with jousting knights by their fair maidens. In England, Queen Elizabeth I loved gingerbread so much that her royal family employed a gingerbread baker.

The popularity of gingerbread traveled overseas to America, where it was enjoyed in this country as early as the 17th century. “Of all the Christmas pastries, the gingerbread cookie was the one most loved by early American children,” writes food historian William Woys Weaver in The Christmas Cook.

Let's get to the root of the issue... ginger root

Throughout the centuries, professional bakers, chefs and home cooks alike have sung the praises of gingerbread. Redolent with spices, gingerbread is as sturdy as it is sweet. Who among us can’t recall building at least one gingerbread house or decorating a gingerbread man in our youth?

Christmas provides an opportunity for generations of family members to share traditions, like holiday baking. This activity is a great way to pass down heirloom recipes to the younger generations. 

To read more of Michael’s article, including his recipes for Gingerbread Cake and Cinnamon Whipped Cream, click here.  Michael has cooked, studied and written about food for more than 10 years.  His recipes have been published nationally in Home Cooking and Taste of Home magazines.

Wendy Allen, "Lincoln 125" - of Gettysburg's Lincoln into Art Gallery

By Alice Estrada, Festival Executive Director

Abraham Lincoln once said: “I am a success today because I had a friend who believed in me.”   

I invite you to become a Friend of the Festival for the upcoming 2011 season, and support arts & culture in Gettysburg. 

Hopefully you have had the opportunity to experience the Festival personally by attending musical or theatrical performances, strolling through art galleries, or enjoying unique culinary experiences.  More than half of the Festival’s annual events are absolutely free and open to the public.  As planning is launched for the 2011 Festival, we are asking two favors of you: 

  • First, please save the dates and join us at the 4th Annual Gettysburg Festival, June 10-19, 2011. 
  • Second, please support arts and culture by joining the “Friends of the Festival” for the upcoming 2011 season. 

Children's events at Gettysburg Festival: designed to stimulate a life-long appreciation for the arts

Your Gettysburg Festival membership helps transform the Gettysburg community, building on the following success:

  • Nearly 200 FREE concerts, performances and art exhibits over the past three years.
  • More than 2,400 artists, musicians and performers…from James Earl Jones narrating A Lincoln Portrait to former White House Chef Walter Scheib creating culinary masterpieces in unique Adams County settings. 
  • Support of the Festival’s community compliment, the Fringe Festival, offering nearly 125 events over the past three years, more than half of which were FREE and provided a showcase for local artists/businesses.
  • Enriching, educational opportunities for all ages, from FREE Children’s Arts Fairs to conversations with top chefs, conductors and choreographers.
  • Economic benefits and improved quality of life to the greater Gettysburg community.

Capturing Gettysburg's Lincoln Square on canvas: the Festival's Artist Colony, June 2010

Click here for more information about the various levels and benefits of Festival Friendship.  Your tax-deductible donation directly benefits the non-profit Gettysburg Festival and ensures the future of accessible, quality arts programming.  Please know that ticket sales for Gettysburg Festival, as is the case with most festivals, cover only one-third of all operating expenses.  Therefore Friends of the Festival play a critical role in the Festival’s sustainability. 

One of the keys to a healthy community is its support of the arts.  According to a recent article in Parade magazine, “Happy people usually have access to art—painting, film, sculpture, theater, music.”  Gettysburg and central Pennsylvania have a wonderful resource for the arts in the Gettysburg Festival.   Join us as a Friend today and hope to see you in June.