Gingerbread houses

One of the scores of gingerbread creations at the Omaha Gingerbread Festival at the Ramada Plaza Hotel.

There’s still time to experience what could be the last year of a decades-old local tradition, the Omaha Gingerbread Festival.

Now open daily at the Ramada Plaza Hotel at 72nd and Grover Streets, the event runs through Dec. 15. The event is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The festival was previously held at the Mormon Trail Center. When it was canceled earlier this year, Nancy and Ron Marshall volunteered to revive the event for one last run.

The couple searched all of Florence for a venue before settling on the Ramada Plaza, which had ample parking and provided the space for free.

“I had no budget and no decorations,” Nancy Marshall said.

Still, she was resourceful.

Marshall called the Mormon Trail Center and secured about half of the decorations from past festivals. Then she went down the list of gingerbread house makers — from elderly women to Boy Scouts — and asked if they would contribute their work again.

Ramada Plaza hotel

The 2019 Omaha Gingerbread Festival is being held at the Ramada Plaza hotel. The free event is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Dec. 15.

Anyone can bring their own gingerbread house to display up until the end of the festival, said Marshall, who also shortened the name of the event.

“The reason we do it is to make people feel happy, to really feel Christmas. And to maybe feel a little bit more love than the hate going around,” she said.

On Saturday, 121 gingerbread creations were being admired by visitors roaming the festival.

Carol and Bill Nish trailed their three grandchildren who jumped and skipped between displays.

“They love it,” she said. “They would love to touch, but we’re being very careful.”

Kids and houses

From left, siblings Harvey Nish, 6, Vivian Nish, 4, and Audrey Nish, 2, look at the gingerbread houses on display. “They would love to touch, but we’re being very careful,” said their grandma Carol Nish.

Kim Hansen, a third grade teacher at Crestwood Elementary School, took videos for her students. Usually, Hansen’s class would visit the festival on a field trip to the Mormon Trail Center, but they made other plans when they heard that it had been canceled.

“I always love this for the kids,” Hansen said. “I hope someone takes it over because it’s a really good experience.”

It won’t be the Marshalls, Nancy said, adding that the event takes too much work at her age.

But this year, she will be at the festival to oversee the many musical events. Performances include a husband and wife harp and piano duo at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 1 and a bell ringing group at 5 p.m. Dec. 6.

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skarst@owh.com, 402-444-1276, @sierra_karst

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