When you walk into Wood Memorial Library and Museum in South Windsor on an average day, the 1926 building is a step into the past, complete with stacks of books and historical paintings. There’s no hint that the vintage structure turns into a winter wonderland. Aside from boxes of holiday decorations, the library and museum keeps up a persona of pure history. That is, up until November, when the location becomes something straight out of a storybook. Colorful gumdrops, gooey frosting and spicy gingerbread blend to make concoctions of gingerbread houses that aren’t your average holiday decoration. For eight years, the Gingerbread House Festival has brought visions of sugarplums to the minds of all who visit the free event. This year’s theme, “Peace on Earth”, reflects an ideal that everyone wants for Christmas.
Jessica Vogelgesang, Communications Director for the Wood Memorial Library and Museum, shared, “This is only the second year we have picked a theme. We liked the idea that people could let their imaginations run wild, but we kept having the gingerbread artisans ask about a theme, so last year, we went with “A Storybook Holiday,” because we are a library and it went over really well. So this year, we went in an entirely different direction with “Peace on Earth”. We follow the theme very loosely, though. We want people to be creative and we welcome all gingerbread masterpieces, whether they follow the theme or not.”
Bonnie Grover, a resident of South Windsor and volunteer at Wood Memorial Library and Museum, brought the Gingerbread House Festival to life. Jessica said, “She pitched it to the board and worked tirelessly for the first four years to make it a success. It was really her vision eight years ago that has grown into the festival everyone enjoys today.”
Gingerbread houses were entered into the festival through Nov. 19. The Gingerbread House Festival is not a judged competition, it is all for fun. Over 8,000 guests annually stop by to observe the creations. Beginners and professionals alike are excited to participate with their own houses year after year. Seeing all of the houses lining the large room surrounded by holiday decorations brings magic to all, including Jessica. “The Gingerbread House Festival is my favorite event that we host at the Wood. It appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds, and it is exciting to see such diversity among our visitors.”
Jamie Howe, a local college student who interned this fall with Wood Memorial Library and Museum, also feels the magic of the holiday after working alongside the library to make gingerbread dreams come true. After submitting her own gingerbread house creations for display in the festival, interning only made the event sweeter. “The Wood boasts a warm, cozy environment filled with welcoming people, and the homes are always displayed in a way that draws you into each unique design or concept. As I think of it now, I picture walking in from the cold and being met with the sweet smell of frosting and candy, combined with a true feeling of happiness and contentment that emanates from all those who visit.”
The happiness that Jamie described is felt throughout the community during the festival. All year long, residents near and far dedicate their time to making sure the Gingerbread House Festival goes off without a hitch. Jessica shared, “It is a community effort. We have a dedicated corps of volunteers who support the event on all levels from planning to completion. We have found a lot of support not only in the South Windsor community, but across the region.” Jamie agreed, stating, “The library is always bustling with people during the festival that, I feel, have really embraced the Christmas spirit.”
Local artisans and musicians joyously join in on the fun of the festival every season. This year, classical guitarist Yosh returned to the event to perform for guests observing the display. Jessica stated, “Yosh is the first musical act to volunteer his time every year. He books the same time slot for the next year’s festival right after he finishes playing the current one. We now have people who visit the festival at the same time each year to hear him play while they tour the event.” All-female a capella group, The Sweetest Key, also performs each year and will be back on Dec. 9. As Jessica described, “They are a real crowd favorite.” Numerous vendors are also featured at the event, selling a variety of perfect holiday gifts.
Performers are not the only ones who can’t help but be a part of the festival. Jessica shared, “We have a group of ladies who come from Westchester County, New York every year and we have bakers and artisans from all over Connecticut as well as greater New England who contribute to the festival’s success by sharing their talents and entering gingerbread masterpieces for the display.”
Jessica believes that the Gingerbread House Festival is a wonderful experience for guests young and old. “As a festival that is focused on artistic creativity expressed in the form of gingerbread, it differs from other Christmas specific events and is more of a seasonal celebration of community that is welcoming to all at this time of year.”
Come to the Wood Memorial Library and Museum and see for yourself how the Gingerbread House Festival can skyrocket you into the holiday spirit. Jessica invites everyone to see how spectacular the holiday can be. “I think the Wood itself as a venue is very special and really adds to the ambiance of the event. As a beautiful older building located on a historic street, it lends itself to a feeling of stepping out of the norm and into something unique and magical, something memorable that leaves people smiling and wanting to come back year after year.”
A SCHEDULE OF EVENTS DURING THE FESTIVAL CAN BE FOUND AT
THE GINGERBREAD FESTIVAL RUNS THROUGH DECEMBER 15 AT THE
WOOD MEMORIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM LOCATED AT
783 MAIN STREET, SOUTH WINDSOR, CT