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8:40 PM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Gingerbread Village opens this Saturday

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<p>
Ashlyn Cumming, 6, and her Big Sister Beth Kryskalla of Big Brothers Big Sisters check out the gingerbread village at the Prescott Resort in December 2008.

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<p> Ashlyn Cumming, 6, and her Big Sister Beth Kryskalla of Big Brothers Big Sisters check out the gingerbread village at the Prescott Resort in December 2008.

Now in its 17th year, the ever-popular "World's Largest Gingerbread Village" makes its grand opening at 10 a.m. this Saturday inside the Prescott Resort and Conference Center, 1500 Highway 69.

The village will feature at least 100 miniature houses of shredded wheat, licorice and gumdrops near the resort's lobby. This display will remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Dec. 27, with more than 50,000 people expected to see the spectacle.

In addition, as in past years, the resort's pastry department baked 3,000 gingerbread cookies for children to decorate and add to the village.

Sally Harris, a resort employee who doubles as a co-chair for the Gingerbread Village committee, said the village will have several judged categories, including Youth (junior, middle and senior), Chef Estate, Cottages, Bungalows, Individual Estates, Chamber of Commerce and Adults.

Although the display is set up on Friday, a panel of judges will spend two hours today evaluating all the entries, which are anonymously numbered. Judges will affix ribbons on the winning entries.

In October, the resort sponsored free classes for people to learn how to construct gingerbread houses from established templates.

"We encourage those who build these to just let their imaginations go," Harris said.

Each year, families, children, businesses, chefs and individuals build their own mostly-edible gingerbread homes for the village and pay for their own "lot" on the display. All money generated from the "lot sale" benefits Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters.

"We get children who participate from Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley," said Valerie Manson, the resort's front office manager and co-chair of the Gingerbread Village Committee. "And the kids are so excited when they get to look at all the entries."

Starting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday and continuing at the same times on Nov. 28, Dec. 5, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 at the resort, children of all ages also will have the chance to frost their own gingerbread cookies for $2 apiece.

"We will bring baskets out every Saturday during the Gingerbread Village time, and Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters gets all the proceeds for the donations for the cookies, too," Manson said. "Then we let the kids come up and lay the cookies anywhere along the display that they can reach, or we reach for them."

However, youngsters will have the option of taking the cookies home and eating them.

"Ninety percent of the kids like to put the cookies on the display," Manson said. "They like to see them out there."

In addition, from noon to 2 p.m. on Nov. 28, Santa Claus will pay a visit to children at the resort. Kids should bring their wish lists and a camera to capture the moment.

Early next month, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 5, the Central Arizona Model Railroad Club will set up its model trains to run through the village. More stationary and moving trains will be shown in a separate room at the resort.

Those who stay at the resort for the holidays can visit www.prescottresort.com to look for special "gingerbread packages." One of the special events offered for three weekends in December is the "Santa Tuck-In" for younger visitors.

For more information about the Gingerbread Village and other Christmas-related events, call the resort at 776-1666.