The smiling gingerbread men and the gaily frosted cookies captured the hearts of the judges at last year's Miracle on Main Electric Light parade in Westminster. As a result, Carroll Lutheran Village's float won the "the Spirit of the Season" award to the delight of its creators.
It also taught the group from the 90-acre retirement community a valuable lesson – no more white plastic foam.
"There was Styrofoam all over this place" said Shirley Daniels, gesturing at her garage, the designated work area for the past six years for the Village's float entry.
"Everybody would look like a snowman, and it didn't come off," agreed Ken Vrtacnik of working with it.
This year, for the parade on Nov. 29, the group of a dozen neighbors is using plywood to create Santa's elves and the toys in Santa's workshop. They came together in October to discuss ideas for this year's float, according to Richard Daniels, Shirley's husband. They printed various images of elves, made a small model of a float, drew up plans and went to work
"They come up with the idea and run with it," said Lisa Albin, director of church and public relations at the Village. "We just pay the bill. It is wonderful. They represent us so well."
The Village contributes between $300 and $400 for supplies, Albin said. Last year's award included $100 as well as a trophy.
"They try to reuse as much as they can," Albin said. "Lights only last so long."
Lots of lights and no image of Santa Claus are two of the main rules for parade entries, Richard said. So, while there won't be a Santa Claus overseeing the elves on the float, Santa's presence will be felt, Richard said, pointing to a large black caldron filled with plywood cutouts of toys.
"That will be covered with burlap and be Santa's sack," he said.
"We have a lot of different talents," Richard Daniels said of his neighbors. "You'd be surprised what people have in their garages."
Last year's cookies will be included in decorations on the grounds of the Village, as are the presents used on the Village's first float six years ago, Albin said.
"We find somewhere to put them on campus so other people can enjoy their handwork," Albin said.
Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon until Thanksgiving, Richard and his crew are in the garage, working on the float. On the Friday before the parade, the group will mount and secure everything on the Village's trailer. All agree that traveling the parade route and seeing all the children and people is worth all the work, though Richard does have an extra glint in his eye this year.