What: Gingerbread wonders and other holiday exhibits, photos with Santa, performances by the Enota Show Choir and the Gainesville High School Crimson Chorus
When: 12:30-4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Northeast Georgia History Center, 322 Academy St., Gainesville
How much: Free
Visitors to the Northeast Georgia History Center this weekend will see a special holiday treat — some of the wonders of the world, in gingerbread form.
Created this week by students in the YMCA after-school program at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, the models feature candy and icing elements representing the well-known architectural characteristics of some of the world's most famous buildings.
The Taj Mahal had a gigantic Hershey's kiss on its top. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was given pretzel trim. Ice cream cones made the spires for Castle Neuschwanstein and the Eiffel Tower was lined with gumdrops.
And the eighth wonder students built? A gingerbread model of the new Fair Street school building, set to be constructed by December 2013.
The students worked diligently in a room that smelled of sugar, fingertips covered in icing from placing Red Hots around their buildings.
"It's a giant castle," 11-year-old Kym Young said of Castle Neuschwanstein. "It's what the Cinderella castle at Disney World is based on."
The project is the brainchild of English to Speakers of Other Languages teacher Melissa Fraser, who started it four years ago when she taught at the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla.
"I've done it at middle and high school levels. What we usually do is research the buildings and it's generally the Seven Wonders of the World," Fraser said. "The kids picked their building on the language or culture they were studying. They build the buildings out of cardboard and then they cover them with graham crackers and candy."
She wanted to do it with the 15 Fair Street students in the after-school program but wasn't sure if they could do the project on their own.
The solution was to partner with some Gainesville High School ROTC cadets who volunteered.
Dylan Martin, 14, a sophomore at Gainesville High, worked with the group creating the Taj Mahal.
"We're eager to help," he said. "I really like hanging out with the kids. They're funny with the way they think."
Students were provided with cardboard elements to create the basic forms of their buildings, and then they covered them with a variety of treats. Fraser had each group make a design plan and choose which candies would be used for which parts.
"I do not know who was having more fun, the little ones or the big ones," Fraser said. "The really precious thing I did not expect is what was happening between the big people and the little people - something special developed between them. The rapport between the kids was amazing."
Many of the kids, even the high school students, had never built gingerbread houses before, Fraser said. She said the project was much more than a craft to keep the students busy after school.
"I want this to inspire inquiry," she said. "I want them not only to do this as a fun holiday craft, but I want to inspire their curiosity about the wonders of the world. It turned out to be something really special."