By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
This is part of a continuing series of articles on Christmas traditions in Northeast Mississippi.
TUPELO – For the sixth year in a row, kids left the Tupelo Christmas parade Saturday and headed to the BancorpSouth Conference Center to build their very own gingerbread houses.
“Home Sweet Home” hosted more than 700 children this year.
“The idea originated as a free activity that would blend kids, architecture and food,” said Terri Johnson, a corporate strategist at JBHM Architects. Johnson works with local chefs David Leathers and Joshua Simpson to pull the event off every year.
The first year, Home Sweet Home was held at The Bistro restaurant and about 75 people showed up, Johnson said. The next year, Simpson suggested they move to the BancorpSouth Conference Center behind the Hilton Garden Inn, where Simpson is the chef at the Great American Grill.
Johnson said the trio relies on sponsors to donate items or give them supplies at cost. Those supplies include small cartons of milk for the base of the house plus graham crackers, icing and candies for decorations.
“I know we had more than 700 kids this year because we had 700 pints of milk and we ran out of milk before we ran out of kids. It was the first year we’ve ever had more kids than milk,” she said.
Leathers and Simpson also teach the children about healthy foods and provide fresh fruit for them to snack on while they’re building their houses.
“It’s something for kids to do every year after the parade while everybody is already downtown,” Johnson said.