Pandemic face masks can't smother the smells of 110 gingerbread houses.
Visitors found that out Saturday as they perused entries during the 36th annual Festival of Gingerbread at the History Center in downtown Fort Wayne.
“It's delicious,” said Eric Seitz, who browsed the confectionary creations with his 1-year-old daughter, Emma, perched on his shoulders.
“It's just a good outing to be on with the family, and it's nice to see all of the clever displays,” he said.
One such prize-winning entry is a Disney-inspired castle with figurines of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Pluto hanging around outside. The palace also includes a tiny cross bridge with pretzels used as handrails.
Another work of art is a sugar cube lighthouse topped with what appears to be a chocolate steeple.
Denise Venderley frequents the festival every year with her family and never ceases to marvel at the participants' attention to detail.
“It's amazing,” she said, “but I know the kids want to eat them, which is why we buy everybody gingerbread cookies before we come in.”
The event, which began Nov. 26 and runs through Dec. 19, typically attracts 12,000 people each year but had its attendance upended by the pandemic, said Todd Maxwell Pelfrey, executive director of the History Center.
“Last year, we had over 4,800 people, but we are going to pass that this weekend,” he said.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the nonprofit's efforts to preserve local history, Pelfrey said.
According to the History Center's website, the Festival of Gingerbread is one of Fort Wayne's most cherished holiday traditions, and one of downtown's most popular events.
Each year, gingerbread creations by local artists are set up in the historic Shields Room in celebration of the holidays. Gingerbread artists range from pre-K students to professionals.
“I just saw (an entry) that used Pez candy,” Venderley said. “I've never seen that done before. It's so cool.”
If you go
What: Festival of Gingerbread, an annual event that this year features 110 entries made of gingerbread and other delectable delights.
When: Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Where: History Center, 302 E. Berry St.
Admission: Adults, $6; seniors 65 and older, $4; children 3-17, $4; young than 3, free