The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Generations enjoy gingerbread house decorating in Ironwood


Michelle Thomasini/Daily Globe

BRIAN BINZ, 4, considers icing with his mom, Roberta Binz, both of Montreal, Wis., during Saturday's gingerbread house workshop at Downtown Art Place in Ironwood.

IRONWOOD – Candy-coated cottages with delicious doors, sugary shutters and frosted foundations were built Saturday during a free gingerbread house workshop at Downtown Art Place in Ironwood.

Many area families took advantage of the activity, part of the Jack Frost Festival. More than 80 families had already been to the workshop around its halfway point, according to Arlene Schneller, gingerbread chairperson.

The workshop allows participants the Jack Frost Gingerbread House Contest a place to work on their entries, with houses being accepted for the contest on site. Builders who don't want to enter the contest can take their creations home.

Some families, like the Binz family of Montreal, Wis., were looking for something fun to do together. Roberta Binz attended with her children, Rebecca (Barto Binz) Bal, of Negaunee, Kaitlyn Binz and Brian Binz, 4.

The group was keeping themselves entertained while some men in the family were deer hunting. "It's nice having an activity for the whole family to do," said Bal, who was attending the workshop for the first time.

Roberta helped Brian decorate a gingerbread house, which he called a "ghost house." Kaitlyn worked on building a hunting camp for her dad, complete with a tent, campfire and deer-shaped animal crackers.

The family didn't plan to enter any of their houses in the contest. "We just do it for the fun," Roberta Binz said.

Other families, like Aaron Anderson and daughter Anneka Anderson, 7, of Ironwood, had attended the workshop and entered the contest before. They said they planned to enter the contest.

For others, attending the workshop was a happy accident. Nicole Jackson and her daughter, Eliana Jackson, 6, of Hurley, didn't know the workshop was going on when they visited DAP to view the art on display. When they saw signs for the workshop, they went downstairs to check it out.

"It was a good surprise," Nicole Jackson said. "What a neat idea for kids in the area." Eliana Jackson said she was having fun and wanted to do it again. They also planned to enter the contest.

Builders were able to bring their own structures or use provided ones with the free building materials and decorations, including 200 pounds of frosting, royal icing, candies, cookies, decorative sprinkles and holiday treats. "We use about 35 boxes of graham crackers, with about one to two packets per house for the walls and a couple bags of icing as mortar," Schneller said. "Then, participants pick all the sweets for trim."

Community support came from all over, Schneller said. "Snow Country Contracting Inc. has provided all the building materials for the workshop for the past 10 years," she said. "Floors 'n' Mor of Ironwood have again donated linoleum bases for the houses so they sit on a firm foundation. I had an enthusiastic mom stop me on the street and give me a bag of goodies ... that she thought would look great on a house for someone."

Schneller also had help from many "great volunteers," including 4-H animal market members, high school and college students and friends. "The real volunteer champions are Edna and Burt Tatham, who have volunteered with me for several years," she said. "They get gingerbread posters distributed to area businesses and schools and do a lot of shopping and organizing before, during and after they event. They are super to work with. I love their support and couldn't do it without them."

Schneller, who has been involved with the workshop since it began in 2000, said she was "very pleased" with the turnout. "It was nice to see a lot of new families and families that have been here already," she said.

Many of Saturday's attendees entered their houses in the contest. Some families took their creations home to work on them a little more before returning them as entries, Scnheller said.

The contest has seen 60-70 entries in recent years, with about 50 coming from the workshop. "The rest come in over the next few weeks," Schneller said.

Schneller said the best part of volunteering is seeing the smiles on children's faces. "I am so grateful to help inspire and encourage people to be creative," she said.

"I love seeing the effort kids make by using ordinary candy and transforming it into a fire pit with candy corn or a pile of logs with Tootsie Rolls, cotton candy for smoke," Schneller said. "I also love having them explain to me what they made and how they made it."

Michelle Thomasini/Daily Globe

EMILY CAREY, left, of Ironwood, and Saige Mackay, of Hurley, decorate a structure during the gingerbread house workshop Saturday at Downtown Art Place in Ironwood. The pair were among student volunteers for the event.

Completed houses went on display Sunday in the windows at DAP and will be shown until Dec. 11.

"The sponsors both agreed that we'd change it up a bit and get more traffic to other places downtown," Schneller said. "A logical place was to hose the gingerbread houses in the two large windows at DAP, which is in the center of town, a great location which has great visibility next to the Historic Ironwood Theatre."

Entries will be accepted at DAP through Thursday, Dec. 5, at 11 a.m. Judging is done that day with winners announced Friday, Dec. 6, as part of Jack Frost Festival activities. Entry forms are available at River Valley Bank, Snow Country Contracting, DAP and the Ironwood Chamber of Commerce, or online at

For more information, call Schneller at 906-364-0992.


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