If you went to the Fort Irwin Town Center during the holidays, you saw them – a giant gingerbread house and Santa’s sleigh.
Those props were part of the decorations that contributed to the holiday cheer and featured prominently during this community’s Winterfest celebration, Dec. 13-14.
The community members who built the items are none other than the Fort Irwin Outdoor Recreation staff. Led by director Ed Iden, the staff includes John Law, Doug Law, Brandi Getz and Virginia Manns. They also got help from Iden’s brothers Jacob and Michael, who took time off from work in Arizona to assist. Last year the sleigh was built and this year the staff worked late into the night for weeks to assemble the gingerbread house, Iden said.
“These guys have worked almost a month-and-a-half straight building this and several other things,” Iden said a day before the 14-foot gingerbread house was to be trucked to the Town Center. “They work their days off, they come in before their shift starts, and they’re here long hours after their shift ends. Probably, between all of us, there are almost 2,000 hours into this right now.”
The work on the house required construction and electrical skills, and creative designing for the different adornments attached. Outdoor Recreation staff also built a chair used by Santa for photo sessions with children. In addition, the staff assisted installation units with the construction of 12 giant, wooden Christmas postcards for a friendly Winterfest competition; all the while, the staff continued with providing recreational support to the community here.
“We want to do this,” Iden said. “I love this community. I love serving Soldiers. I didn’t serve myself, so it makes me feel good knowing I can contribute. I enjoy running Outdoor Recreation here; it’s been a blast and any chance I get to do something a little bit more, I try to be involved in it.”
The sleigh features four plaques with an inscription of a Christmas story written by Iden’s mother, Judith Ann Burch, who passed away from cancer in 1993, Iden said. He wanted to share with the community the story his mother read to him growing up in Barstow. Iden hopes to one day have the narrative published with proceeds donated to research in children’s cancer. An excerpt of the story follows:
“‘Why Santa’, said Mrs. Claus, ‘look at your sleigh. You must have a new one before the big day.’ And Santa agreed, it was getting quite old. It was bent up and rusted, a real sight to behold. This year there’d be more to load on his sleigh. He just couldn’t afford to break down on the way. So a new sleigh was bought to carry Santa that year. And the little elves hurried and scurried with cheer.”