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Retired Navy veteran constructs giant gingerbread house

December 9, 2018

DANVILLE, Va. (AP) — Driving down Halifax Road, a miniature house may catch one’s eye.

Unlike the house behind it, the roof is lined with what appears to be whipped cream, and its lawn is decorated with a candy cane garden.

“No samples,” a red sign warns as a light shines on the house, ensuring its visibility 24 hours a day.

Around two to three stop by Jim Searles’ home each day, drawn to the 7-foot-tall gingerbread house in his front yard.

While not edible, the sight is a treat for the eyes, as well as, Searles hopes, the mind.

The retired Navy veteran spent months constructing each piece of the colorful house by hand as a surprise for his 4-year-old grandaughter when she visits during Christmas this year.

Searles said when he first started, he tried looking for examples and how-tos online but was ultimately unimpressed.

“Nobody really had a good gingerbread house,” he said, standing next to the house and pointing toward a few pieces on the roof. “They put no thought in it.”

Just cardboard and paint, said Searles, still disappointed.

Instead, he created a plan of his own and found materials around the home to transform into a gingerbread dream house fit for his granddaughter, reusing scraps.

“I wanted candies,” he said. “Each one was a challenge. ... How do you make a candy out of no candy?”

The lid to a tea container and some paint became a piece of chocolate. Chunks of pool noodles turned into lollipops. Hardened dough was sculpted into the shape of Christmas tree cookie.

Each piece contributed to his goal of fostering his granddaughter’s imagination.

“Kids today have lost the art of imagination, and I think that’s what made the world great,” said the grandfather.

Even though he doesn’t expect the 4-year-old’s attention span to last more than a few minutes, he hopes it will make a lasting impression and a memory they can look back on as a family.

“Now, will I do this next year? I don’t know about that,” he said with a chuckle.

Neighbors have asked him what will happen to the house after the holidays, and Searles said he still doesn’t have an answer.

“What am I going to do with it in my front yard?” he questioned.

Luckily, visitors have made their own offers to take the house off his hands once the holidays pass, so the unique structure may find a new home come January.

Until then, Searles said he welcomes anyone to come look at the house at 1574 Halifax Road, especially if they have small children, hoping to spread the magic.

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Information from: Danville Register & Bee, http://www.registerbee.com

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