An average of 700 people a day have been visiting the "Gingerbread Extravaganza" at the Idaho Falls Temple Visitors Center since the gingerbread display was put up Nov. 24.
The display includes more than 135 gingerbread replicas of houses, various churches, a manger scene, barns, trains, stores and other structures. Also part of the visitors center Christmas exhibit is a life-size Nativity in front of the building on the temple grounds. The gingerbread display will be taken down Dec. 21, while the Nativity will stay up until between Christmas and New Year's Day.Elder Keith Olsen, director of the Idaho Falls Temple Visitors Center, explained that on the first day of the display, 1,000 people came to the visitors center; 800 came the second day. On Dec. 12, some 1,400 people visited the center.
"We wanted to encourage families and our non-member friends to come and enjoy the beautiful spirit that exists here," said Elder Olsen, who serves with his wife, Fay.
"We have music and narration of the birth of the Savior," he continued. "The display shows Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus, all life-size. We have them dressed in authentic-looking costumes. Their faces are very beautiful and inspiring. The scene is completed with animals and a manger. Many come to enjoy the serenity that is here."
"We have been inviting all to view the beautiful short film, `Luke Two,' and hundreds have been inspired by it."
Before the beginning of the Christmas season, Sister Olsen related, a committee of 13 local Relief Society sisters under the direction of the Olsens began planning the gingerbread display.
"We held six classes, all available to the public, prior to the opening of the display," Sister Olsen said. "We taught the classes here at the center and at different meetinghouses in our area. These classes were well attended; in fact, the first class was full the day after it was announced. We had four talented sisters teach the classes. We gave out recipes and taught over 150 interested participants."
Sister Olsen explained that for the display: "We have used the importance of the home as our theme. We have beautifully printed posters with many lovely quotes about family and home, such as: `Home is the place to save society,' `No other success can compensate for failure in the home,' `The greatest work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home,' and many others.
"We alerted the surrounding wards and stakes as well as the local news media. We sent out invitations, made and distributed flyers and used a lot of `word of mouth' to get the message out."
She added that each person who visits the gingerbread display receives a small gingerbread cookie.
"It is enjoyable to see the enthusiasm and excitement from the children and the adults as they enjoy the beautiful exhibits," Elder Olsen remarked. "We have received many favorable comments from those who have come to enjoy. We received one referral from a man who was touched by the spirit as he viewed the Nativity scene and then came into the center. We are happy that we have been able to offer this to our community and know that many lives have been touched."