Look, but don't eat! Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y., opened its annual holiday gingerbread village comprised of nine buildings, and now equipped with a brand new train station and moving train. This whimsical village was included in last year's Forbes list of the top nine "incredible gingerbread houses at luxe hotels." Though the village (sadly) isn't large enough for humans to inhabit, it is the largest gingerbread village in Central New York, measured at almost 60 feet in length.
Contrary to its name, the structures in this small town aren't all necessarily made of gingerbread. “One of the things that’s important to me is that we use different mediums. We don’t just want to do gingerbread, and we don’t just want to do candy. So, we do a lot of chocolate work, fondant work, pastillage—which is like a sugar dough—and shortbread, as well as gingerbread,” says Dennis Miller, the executive pastry chef of the project. He explained that he and his team change the design every year so that loyal visitors can marvel at new structures and layouts. In the past, Miller has been the main designer of the village, but this year, a collaborative effort involving a team of 24 made each building unique, yet cohesive when combined.
The process of creating the gingerbread village is a long and detail-oriented task. Assembling this holiday staple begins in May with the ordering of 100 pounds of assorted candies. This ensures that vendors don't run out of their supplies. The base structures for each building have already been built by a master carpenter, so the real design and architectural detail falls upon Miller and his team. Besides this, the most important task is baking the 600 pounds of gingerbread and other sweets in August. This early start ensures that "tens of thousands of pieces" can be baked on time, Miller says. Once the foundation for the village is complete and the buildings have been placed, the chef and his team have eight days to assemble and decorate the entire thing. The whole village is completed with 800 pounds of icing, and 300 pounds of fondant.
"This year we really wanted to make the grounds just as exciting as the buildings, so that it all ties in," Miller says, referring to the "landscaping" of the village, which is just as ornate as the buildings themselves. Little chocolate benches and candy cane picnic tables are scattered throughout the village along with sugar glass and fondant pine trees, creating a charming winter wonderland.
This massive project, which takes months to prepare and days to assemble, is a labor of love for Miller and his team. "To me the most important thing is that Turning Stone really embraces this project—it's all about community...and [seeing] everybody from one to 99 getting as much joy out of it as we do," Miller says.
Turning Stone's gingerbread village will be open to the public daily throughout the holiday season.