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Friday, January 9, 2015

The " A Christmas Delight" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Visiting with Jim, a former student whom I had in class years ago at Manheim Township High School.  He is now an architect at RLPS Architects in Lancaster, PA.  Seems that every year during the week before Christmas I visit with Jim and write a story about the unbelievable gingerbread display that the company builds for the community.  Well, this year I didn't get to make the visit in a timely manner and thought I had missed out on one of the neatest experiences of the holiday season.  
Town Square while the lights were still on in the room.
But, today I got a call from Jim telling me that the display will remain up for another week or so, since the company is having a special social soon.  "Are you interested in making a visit before we tear the display down this year?" Jim asked me.  At the time I was at the gallery where I work part-time so I asked Jim if I could stop closer to noon.  Got the affirmative response so I called my wife about the visit and here we stand, staring at the display with wide eyes and a childish imagination.  
The Town Square with the house lights dimmed.
The display this year is titled "Frozen in Time" and is the 60th year that the company has constructed the display.  One thing different this year is the main construction material.  Instead of the usual and traditional gingerbread, which the local Vo-Tech School supplied, the display is built from Charms.  Yep, the little square candies that have a fantastic flavor.  Seems RLPS contacted the Tootsie Roll Company, who manufacture Charms, and bought 12,000 packs of charms.  They wanted a variety of colors, but weren't expecting them to come in boxes, all mixed together!  Took some time to sort out the colors before they could begin the display.  RLPS has about 70 employees and the majority of them participate in the display every year by either making a structure, people, scenery or accessories.  I read the "House Rules" for the display rules such as:

  • Buildings are to be produced in the turn of the century Scandinavian style (1880-1920)
  • Scale: 3/8" = 1'0" (making normal people roughly 2" tall)
  • Buildings should be a single structure, no more than 100 square inches.
  • Maximum height:  Fishing village 10"-12" max.; Town Square 14"-16" max.; outlying buildings same as the town square.
  • All buildings should have a chimney.
  • Roofs are to be made of 1'2" foam core and covered in icing to look like snow accumulation.
  • Interiors to be lit with an LED light.
  • Visible materials (other than windows, roofs, and lighting) should be edible.  Each lot will be built of the pre-assigned specific color of Charms candy.  80% of the exterior walls should be Charms.  No interior light bulbs should be seen.  The idea is that the walls built of Charms will glow.
 Well, the place certainly glowed.  Jim closed the roll-down blinds, darkened the room and illuminated the display for Carol and me.  AMAZING!!  Now you must remember that this is an architects office, so around the side of the display was the list of rules, an easel holding the Christmas Concept Sketches (done using architectural drawings) and another easel holding the 2104 Christmas Display Concept Images.  
The fishing village
There were 17 structures as well as a mountain, trees, railroad bridges with running trains, animals, people and so many parts to the display that even after an hour of looking and taking photos, I'm sure I missed about half of it.  The winning structure was titled "Sven's Smorgasbord Supplies" and was done in green Charms that glowed.  
Outlying buildings
I asked Jim how the designer of the building managed to have flat panels and he told me that the architect melted the Charms and poured them in plastic molds to make the individual panels.  Now, here's the guy or gal that I want to hire to design my ultimate beach house someday. We both had such a wonderful time visiting with Jim and thanked him for remembering us during the holiday season.  The following photos give you an idea of what the display looked like.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The mountain and Castle at one end of the town.
The winning entry located in the Town Square.
A closer look at the winning entry. 
Closer view of the outlying buildings.
Structure titled "For The Halibut Fish Market".
The train passes the Diamond Mine on it's journey around the village.
One of the two trains heading toward the train station.
One of the accessories Jim made this year.  The 3 pigs with their houses.

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