At The History Center, it's almost like receiving Christmas presents each year when gingerbread artists carry in their creations for the annual Festival of Gingerbread.
Museum staff enjoy seeing what new and imaginative designs arrive, said Todd Maxwell Pelfrey, the museum's executive director. They also enjoy seeing youngsters or those new to the competition grow over the years in skill level.
The festival, which opens with a special Night of Lights viewing 5-9 p.m. today, continues through Dec. 9.
Gingerbread artists entered more than 100 creations in the festival this year, Pelfrey said. Judges evaluated the entries in 12 categories, including historical theme, age, and individual or group.
“Local landmarks are always a favorite,” Pelfrey said of festival participants.
This year, those include a depiction of the Embassy Theatre lobby decorated for the Festival of Trees, complete with 61 Christmas trees — each uniquely decorated.
This entry from the Creative Confections Cake Club Adult Group won three awards — first place, Historical Theme, Adult; second place, Group, Adult; and the WANE-TV Sponsor Award.
Larissa Johnson also won first place, Historical Theme, Student; and first place, Individual, Teen, for her gingerbread replica of historic Brookside, also known as the Bass Mansion, on the University of Saint Francis campus on Spring Street.
The Krach/Hentz group won first place in the Teen Group category for a highly detailed replica of the historic Main Building and its golden dome at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.
Other highlights included an amazingly detailed Christmas tree made with angled layers of gingerbread and frosting greenery. It was decorated with a garland of mints and hard candy, and tree lights made by pushing small lights into colored gumdrops.
The tree, the work of the Eagleson family, received first place in the family category.
Along with bringing joy to the faces of visitors, the gingerbread creations are an important fundraiser for The History Center.
The Festival of Gingerbread raises about $80,000 for the museum through admissions, sponsorships and a silent auction of many of the entries, Pelfrey said. That is about one-seventh of the museum's total annual revenue.
The event typically attracts about 12,000 visitors, who represent about a quarter of the museum's annual attendance, Pelfrey said.