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Sweet note: Gingerbread house decorating provides holiday spirit, break from finals

Students enjoy creativity and opportunity to share their designs

MENOMONIE, Wis. (December 22, 2020) – With gum drops, candy canes, frosting and a lot of creativity, University of Wisconsin-Stout students created holiday spirit with gingerbread houses they decorated and displayed Dec. 18 in the Memorial Student Center.

A total of about a dozen houses built and decorated by students were part of the display for a contest held by Student Leadership Assistants, a University Housing organization. The group gave out 90 kits to students to decorate, a fun activity to help them take a break from finals and capture the winter holiday spirit.

Lizzie Skalitzky, a sophomore apparel design and development student, entered a gingerbread house decorated a bit like her home in Sun Prairie.

“I got fluffy marshmallow spread and sprinkled it with sugar sparkles to make it look like snow on the roof,” Skalitzky said, noting she used sugar pearls to decorate the roof edge. A Lilliputian wreath was hung above the door of the house. “I was inspired by my house in Sun Prairie. We have a lot of pine trees in the front of the house. We always get a lot of snow. The house is kind of old, so it kind of looks like a gingerbread house.

“I just seemed like a fun activity, especially during COVID-19 when you can’t do a lot with other people,” Skalitzky said. “It also gave me a chance to get into the holiday spirit.”

Jevon Anderson, a sophomore majoring in marketing and business education, planned the event, keeping the gingerbread houses six feet a part to allow for social distancing. Anderson is the campus events coordinator for Student Leadership Assistants. “I thought it would be a good idea to get people together, while still maintaining social distancing,” Anderson, of Racine, said. “The idea was to have something fun for students to end the year on a sweet note.”

Jack Lonn, a first-year student majoring in computer and electrical engineering from Minneapolis, said he decided to build a gingerbread house for a fun activity. “It was easy until it got hard,” he said. “I should have been using more frosting to build it. It could have turned out a lot worse,” he said, laughing.

Ross Barnett, a sophomore majoring in computer networking and information technology from Ripon, used Kit Kat candy bars to make his house look like a log cabin. On the rooftop sits a gingerbread Grinch and at the front door a Teddy Gram cookie.

“It was fun,” Barnett said. “It gave me a break from studying for finals.”

When asked what the inspiration for the log cabin was, Barnett said he looked at Pinterest for ideas.

Evaluation week continues through Tuesday, Dec. 22, at UW-Stout. Winterm starts Monday, Jan. 4, and continues through Saturday, Jan. 24. Second semester classes begin Monday, Jan. 25.

McKenna Van Buren, a sophomore psychology major from Brandon, carved Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer out of gingerbread to help decorate her house.

“I had friends help me with ideas,” Van Buren said. “It was fun and really a stress relief from finals. You are using your creativity and it helps.”

Rudolph was difficult to create, she noted. “His head fell off. Then both feet fell off. It did not want to be carved properly,” she said, smiling.

The top five gingerbread houses chosen by viewers were awarded a prize. Winners were: Barnett; Kendra Aumann-Weyenberg, De Kalb, Ill., computer science major; Kennadi, Shumaker, Dickinson, N.D., applied biochemistry and molecular biology; Connor Engen, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., mechanical engineering; and Van Buren.

UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.

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UW-Stout student Ross Barnett used Kit Kat candy bars on his gingerbread house to make it look like a log cabin./ UW-Stout photos


Student McKenna Van Buren’s gingerbread house had Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer outside its door.


Student Lizzie Skalitzky used her Sun Prairie home as inspiration for her gingerbread house.