December 28, 2022 at 5:32 p.m.
Eidens makes miniature Sauk Centre out of gingerbread
Visions of sugar plums danced in the heads of the Eiden family the week leading up to Christmas. Over the course of four days, the Eidens created seven gingerbread buildings, all of which are replicas of businesses in Sauk Centre.
“We all have a creative mind,” Sarah Eiden said. “The kids really get into this kind of thing.”
Charles and Sarah Eiden and their children, Elizabeth (15), Abigail (14), Rebekah (12), Rachel (10), Tirzah (6), and Jeddiah (3) spent about 14 hours over the course of four days to bake, build, assemble and decorate the gingerbread buildings – one day to bake everything, one day to assemble the main pieces and two evenings to decorate the buildings.
“We started making gingerbread houses six years ago,” Sarah said. “We started out with kits, but with how creative we are, we wanted to start making our own from scratch.”
Each year their creations grow. In the past the family has made a replica of their house, and last year they made a train.
This year they wanted to make a village. This led to the idea of creating replicas of buildings from their beloved town.
“In the end, we decided to list all the buildings on Main Street, put them in a Christmas stocking and have each of us draw from it to see which building each person would decorate,” Sarah said.
Charles used Street View from Google Maps to print out a picture of each of the businesses. With his engineering mindset, he was able to look at things and determine what would work best to bring the buildings to life.
“My husband is an engineer and got pretty excited to do the project,” Sarah said. “He is very creative and doesn’t do things simply.”
Sarah made nine batches of gingerbread for them to cut out all the pieces for the three-dimensional buildings.
“We’ve learned what gingerbread and icing recipe works best,” Sarah said.
While the buildings aren’t exactly to scale, they are undoubtedly recognizable.
“My husband and I did the baking and constructing of the buildings, and then the kids decorated,” Sarah said. “We had the kids come in shifts to decorate the buildings.”
Elizabeth created the historic Palmer House, complete with a mural of Sinclair Lewis on the back.
“I like to do artsy stuff, but it was fun to be with everybody because we are sarcastic and have fun together,” Elizabeth said.
Abigail created the grand town library, with a gingerbread man out front representing the Sinclair Lewis statue.
“Every year we get more creative,” Abigail said. “We continue to find more ways to use new candies, and it’s fun to come up with new ideas.”
Rebecca was in charge of Jitters Java Café, which has a wafer-cookie and candy-melt newspaper stand and drive through.
“I liked doing the little details like the newspaper stand outside of Jitters,” Rebecca said.
Rachel did Bart’s Bakery, featuring a wafer-cookie diagonal sign.
Tirzah did Sauk Centre’s post office with a graham-cracker mailbox out front with the help of Charles.
“I can’t pick my favorite part because it was all really fun,” Tirzah said.
Charles did Fredrich’s Tire and Oil, complete with wafer-cookie and candy-melt gas pumps and a chocolate dinosaur on the store front.
Sarah completed Main Street Theatre with gumdrops, candy canes and wafer cookies for the sign.
Three-year-old son, Jed*, enjoyed watching and spending time with the family.
“The Main Street Theatre is our favorite one,” Sarah said. “It turned out really well.”
Charles and Sarah oversaw all their children as they brought their tiny town to life and helped with some of the small details. It was Charles’s idea to heat up the wafer cookies so they could easily be pulled apart and used to wrap around the curved sign of Main Street Theatre.
“We try to find some new and obscure candy every year and incorporate it,” Sarah said. “The wafer cookies were new this year.”
Besides the wafer cookies, the Eiden family used pretzel rods, Charleston Chews, gumdrops, M & M’s, peppermints, candy melts and Nilla Wafers to bring out the details of each building.
“The cool thing is not that we made this gingerbread village; it’s that we worked together and problem-solved together as a family,” Sarah said. “There were no arguments. No one got frustrated this year. That is growth.”
The Eidens have thought about donating the village somewhere so more people can enjoy it, but they haven’t decided where it should go or who to contact about the project.
One thing they do know is they will continue their tradition of gingerbread building. They are already having conversations about what they can do to improve for next year.
“It’s not about the gingerbread; it’s about doing something together as a family,” Sarah said. “It is a family affair.”