Peering over The Garlands gingerbread village, onlookers marvel at the candy craftsmanship of the masterpiece on display now at The Garlands of Barrington. This year admirers may even spy some sweet additions, tasty changes and even (gasp!) a festive holiday ghost!
New gingerbread maker, Garlands Pastry Chef, Julie Swieca-Gannon put her unique, candy stamp on the beloved Garlands tradition.
“I love a Christmas village and wanted to bring that vision to life,” said Julie, calling re-imagining the candy creation a “dream opportunity.” She found decoration inspiration in the aisles of craft and grocery stores in the forms of Christmas-colored candy corns, Ritz snowflake crackers and candy string lights.
Chef Julie set up her gingerbread-making shop in a storage locker in The Garlands parking garage, where she worked like one of Santa’s elves in earmuffs to refurbish 67 gingerbread buildings and create five new ones. Sneaking away from the kitchen, staying after hours and coming in on weekends, Julie clocked a whopping 120 hours in the ginger renovation!
Worth the Wait!
A new, bustling town square is the focal point of the multi-tiered, mountainside village that features over seventy gingerbread structures and two trains curling through the snowy alps under a star-lit sky.
A gazebo, clock tower, shops and church draw viewers into Chef Julie’s food-fantasy “holiday land,” where caramel and chocolate Rolos are roof shingles, brightly colored Skittles are chimney stones and frosted Salerno butter cookies serve as wreaths. Gummy Lifesavers, Big Red chewing gum sticks, mini candy-canes and gum drops are among the candies that round out the mouth-watering landscape.
More than a few children have been tempted to nibble! Before tasting, consider Chef Julie’s trade secret reveal: decorators often use real glue covered up with icing to hold walls and ceilings together! What’s more, the candy and cookies, despite looking delicious, are likely (spoiler alert!) hard and stale.
So, don’t touch and just look with your eyes to see Chef Julie’s expert piping and attention to detail in the gingerbread VFW Hall’s “Queen of Hearts Raffle” sign as well as on the cakes and pastries displayed in the bakery window. And, see if you can find the scary town ghost hidden in plain sight among the sweets!
It Takes a Village
When the calendar turned to December and it was time to assemble the gingerbread village, Chef Julie and “Santa’s helpers” sprang into action. Pieces were loaded onto trays and carried up from the garage workshop by hand with care in the hope that admirers “soon would be there.”
Sure enough, Garlands members were eagerly anticipating the village. “Members stopped by all day to get a glimpse and chat while we placed the buildings and fluffed the snow,” said Chef Julie. “After all of the hours I spent in seclusion in the parking garage, it was great to have the personal interaction and see all the excitement!”
The Garlands gingerbread village is on display now through the second week of January. The public is welcome to check in with the concierge and view the village between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Call 847-304-1996 to learn more.