Anna and Tom Smith have been busy as elves, spending many hours mixing and rolling out dough and baking parts for 125 gingerbread houses for children.
This is the sixth year the couple has provided the labor of love for the Christmas on the Prairie celebration in Prairie City.
This year’s citywide event — featuring a bazaar, an ornament hunt, hayrides, FFA Dinner and Live Auction and more — is Saturday, Nov. 17.
The gingerbread building and decorating is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Teen Center, 145 W. Front St., and Santa pays a visit there at 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Anna said the idea behind the gingerbread house project is to provide all children with an opportunity to “have a blast.”
“I wanted them to enjoy something that they can have fun with and take home,” she said. “I wanted them to experience the whole gingerbread thing.”
The houses are not small — no graham cracker homes here — but are made from fragrant, delicious, homemade gingerbread dough.
She said it’s a recipe that families will like eating after they’ve displayed them.
“Everyone knows me as the Gingerbread Lady,” Anna said.
Her husband, Tom, the Gingerbread Man, mixes up the dough from scratch, and Anna rolls it out.
Each batch makes the parts for two houses and takes 15 minutes to bake. Then they start the process again in their home kitchen.
On Nov. 8, about a dozen walls and roofs were laid out, cooling and setting up.
The Smiths start buying pounds and pounds of baking supplies in September, as well as candy for decorating right after Halloween.
For this year’s project, they purchased two 50-pound bags of flour, 12 jars of molasses and 24 pounds of butter for the gingerbread. Two 25-pound bags of icing sugar will be mixed up and used as “glue” to construct the sweet treats.
The Smiths have provided the service out of pocket, with some contributions given in a donation jar at the event, and this year Roan Coffee donated $50 to the cause.
Because the costs for supplies have gone up significantly, the Smiths are seeking more sponsors for the project.
The first year, it was $1,000 for 75 houses, and this year the price has climbed to $3,000 for 125 houses, Anna said — not to mention the cost of operating their oven for hours on end.
“If people would like this to continue from year to year, the community’s participation in sponsoring this event would be greatly appreciated,” she said.
To assist as a sponsor, call Anna at 541-792-0901.
Anna will also have two of her handmade children’s quilts to give to two lucky winners in a drawing at the event.
About 20 volunteers help the Smiths decorate the Teen Center, make the homemade icing and assist the children and their parents or guardians in constructing the houses.
Wanda Winegar and other volunteers with the Talents and Treasures nonprofit group help organize Christmas on the Prairie.
Winegar said the opportunity to build their own full-size gingerbread house is a big draw for children — plus the visit from Santa.
She said the event, which is themed “A Blue Mountain Christmas on the Prairie” this year, is a kickoff to the Christmas shopping season.
“There are people who come every year, so it’s a social event for us,” she said.
“I have people who visit from out town just for the event,” Winegar added. “It’s nice to know that it’s that popular. It gives people an open invitation to visit our shops and see what we can provide for them locally.”
For more information, call Winegar at 541-820-3675.
Friday, Nov. 16
5:30 p.m., Tree lighting ceremony with carolers at the city park
Saturday, Nov. 17
All day: Ornament hunt at participating businesses for a chance to win a collection of gifts
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: American Legion Auxiliary Christmas Bazaar at Prairie City School
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Build and decorate a gingerbread house for children at the Teen Center
10:30 to 3 p.m.: Santa Claus at the Teen Center (bring a camera)
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Hayrides by Monty Buck for all ages at the old Texaco
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Grace Chapel gift wrapping at the old Texaco
All day: Free admission to the DeWitt Museum with door prizes for the 10th, 15th and 25th guest (commemorative ornaments available)
5 p.m.: Prairie City FFA Dinner and Auction at Prairie City Senior Center with live auction, silent auction and door prizes (benefits chapter’s dues, travel expenses, scholarships and community service projects)