KOHLER — If only all barn raisings were this fast and delicious.
Students in Olivia MacDonald’s Crafts II class at Random Lake High School honored the agriculture community by handcrafting a “gingerbread house” in the shape of a barn, silo and surrounding landscape.
Their creation, cleverly dubbed “O. MacDonald’s Farm,” is one of 43 entries in the 21st annual Great Gingerbread Festival. The free event, featuring the gingerbread works of local schools and community groups, continues through Dec. 30 at the Waelderhaus, 1100 W. Riverside Drive, in the Sheboygan County village of Kohler.
Last year, the festival attracted about 8,000 visitors to the Waelderhaus, which is managed by the nonprofit Kohler Foundation. Visitors vote for their favorite entries, and prizes are awarded to the top three in each of six categories.
The 12 students in MacDonald’s Crafts II class spent several hours over the course of a week, including time after school, creating the farm, which is one of seven entries in the grades 9-12 category.
“I’m really impressed by how it turned out,” MacDonald said. “The teamwork was great, and the whole class had a lot of fun working on it.”
The red barn boards are composed of licorice sticks, and the black roof is made of overlapping Oreo cookies, with a dusting of powdered sugar on top for snow. Pretzels were used to create the fence, tree and stacked logs. Mini-Wheats cereal was used for hay. The silo is a Rice Krispie treat rolled into a cylindrical shape and covered in trail mix, providing the appearance of a stone surface.
Elsewhere on the detailed display, evergreen trees are upside-down ice cream cones covered in green frosting (with M&Ms for lights), and gumballs form a snowman. Brown sugar and crushed crackers combine to make the dirt path leading up to the barn. And candy canes add a decorative touch.
“Everybody loved how it turned out, especially in the short amount of time we had to make it,” said Leanna Faller, a senior in the Crafts II class. “We had a few ideas we were thinking about making, but I voted for the barn idea. I thought it was fun to have a winter theme with a barn, since we have a lot of barns in this area.”
Faller and her family live just outside Random Lake. Their property includes a barn, as well as goats and cats. When she was younger her family had a few cows as well.
“Seeing the finished barn we made, it makes me think of my own house and our barn,” Faller said. “It really does look like a barn.”
The project also hit home for MacDonald, 26, who was born in Kohler. She regularly attended the festival in her younger years and enjoyed seeing the creative interpretations of gingerbread houses. Now she’s helping oversee some of the entries.
This year, MacDonald’s two Crafts I classes also created gingerbread houses — a McDonald’s restaurant and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, both of which also impressed her. Included among the dozens of other entries this year are a Victorian-style house, the Empire State Building, teepees, a log cabin, a lighthouse and a coffin.
“The gingerbread houses are all so different,” said Waelderhaus manager Debbie Weber, who has been involved with the event since its inception. “People are amazed to see what these young people come up with every year.”
The Waelderhaus is open Sundays through Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Tours of the historic building also are available. For more information, visit http://www.kohlerfoundation.org.