Participating downtown merchants have created gingerbread displays as part of a friendly competition to raise money for the Salvation Army of McHenry County, headquartered at 290 W. Crystal Lake Ave., Crystal Lake.
The concept is simple: If customers like a store's gingerbread display, they can "vote" for their favorite - or favorites - by dropping a donation into the smaller red kettles hanging either next to the display, or by the store cash register.
The gingerbread fundraising program began last holiday season.
"We wanted to find a unique way to help the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign," said Downtown Crystal Lake excecutive director Diana Kenney.
"Representatives from the national branch of the Salvation Army said they have never heard of such an idea...plus it's a great way to bring people downtown and help out a great organization."
In all, about 20 downtown businesses have set tiny red kettles inside their stores. Twelve of those have created whimsically festive gingerbread scenes including Dalzell's Jewelers, Out of the Box, Wickham Interiors, and Suran Built, all located on North Williams Street.
KaleidoScoops Ice Cream Shop, 53 N. Williams St., is hosting its 10th Annual Gingerbread Contest for the public. Bakers/ artists of all ages are invited to join the contest. Prizes will be awarded to the top entries. Several gingerbread creations are displayed in KaleidoScoops display window - including a rotating carousel ride.
Last holiday season, the Downtown Crystal Lake businesses raised an extra $2,400 with its gingerbread fundraiser, said Linda Hunter, community relations director for the Salvation Army of McHenry County.
Overall, the Red Kettle Campaign in the county collected over $400,000 in November-December 2011, enabling the Salvation Army to serve 625 families last Christmas, Hunter said.
More about the Salvation Army's 2012 Red Kettle fundraiser in this Patch article: