Norwalk resident Tom Lesch sure knows how to create a feast for the eyes.
Gingerfest, the gingerbread village display at the Bronson Norwalk Conservation Club, has been a holiday favorite for nearly a decade.
It resembles the set of a magical, colorful Christmas movie.
Lights sparkle everywhere. Electronically-operated elves churn out butter and candy canes. Cardboard that could pass for gingerbread makes up the fabric of this village where ice fishing, baking, making crafts, indulging in sweets, watching movies, making wooden toys, dunking Santa down a chimney and buying gifts are all possible.
All that's missing is snow.
Lesch builds each exhibit by hand and has been running the operation with numerous volunteers for seven or eight years.
Lesch said last year, 650 young people went through Gingerfest. This year, groups started touring Saturday and Lesch expects 1,000 to 1,200 to visit before it ends Sunday.
"It's a great experience for the kids and they just love it," Lesch said.
He said children particularly like the kitchen scene, where the electronically-operated elves are at work.
"The kids are fascinated by it," Lesch said. "They just stand and watch."
Ten-year-old Main Street School fifth-grader Matt Davidson, one of the recent visitors, said Gingerfest is by far the best Christmas scene he's come across.
Norwalk resident Cathy Krieg brought her 8-year-old son, Brice, and 12-year-old daughter, Lindsey, to Gingerfest.
"The decorations are awesome this year," she said.
But, Gingerfest isn't only about Santa Claus and decorations. Walk through the spectacle, and you'll find the village's church, where children learn that Jesus Christ is at the center of Christmas.
Volunteer Roz Baughman lets children smell real frankincense and myrrh, which the Wisemen brought Jesus when he was a baby. There's also a board proclaiming that Christmas is about Jesus, and children hold a birthday party for him.
Baughman, who attends Milan Baptist Church with Lesch, said she's thrilled to volunteer.
"It's a gift for me to be a part of it," Baughman said.
Gingerfest might have many volunteers and decorations, but it began as a small Lesch family gathering.
Tom Lesch said he grew up with 15 siblings and the family always would have large Christmas celebrations. But after his mother died in 1984, those gatherings stopped.
Eventually, Lesch realized his young nieces and nephews never experienced those family gatherings. So, he started held holiday gatherings once again.
They eventually grew into Gingerfest.
Those same nieces and nephews help run it, along with other volunteers. Lesch said he and his wife shoulder about 75 percent of the financial burden of Gingerfest.
He said they can no longer do so; without more donations coming in, Gingerfest will have to stop.
"We sure don't want it to," Lesch said.
What has motivated him to continue the display year after year?
"It's the faces of the people as they come in," Lesch said.
HOW TO HELP
If you wish to make a donation to keep Gingerfest going, make a check out to Boy Scout Troop 218, and send it to 3 Grove Ave., Norwalk, Ohio 44857.