WALLA WALLA -- "This year it was gummy bears. Last year was Hot Tamales," said Walla Walla High School senior and volunteer Jennifer Golden, referring to this year's most popular candy at the annual YWCA Hansel and Gretel house event Wednesday.
Gummy bears were the first candy to disappear from candy platters piled high with M&Ms, mini marshmallows, candy canes, jujubes, gum drops, nougats, saltwater taffy, licorice, holly wreath gummies, Skittles and last year's favorite, Hot Tamales.
About 60 children built gingerbread houses from graham crackers, candy and a sturdy white frosting made by John's Wheatland Bakery. Safeway donated takeaway bags and Williams Team Homes coordinated publicity for the event.
The event cost $5 to cover expenses, and scholarships were available for any who needed assistance.
YWCA board members trimmed the graham crackers beforehand so the walls only required assembly. Assembly, however, called for a heavy hand with the frosting, and a few houses required stanchions of licorice and candy canes to keep the walls upright.
After overcoming some vertical challenges, the houses were cheerfully decorated with windows, doors, sleighs, Christmas trees, mailboxes and a few UFOs (unidentified frosted objects).
The YWCA gingerbread house event began at least 35 years ago. Many of the volunteers, who included nine Wa-Hi students, were once young children daubing gobs of white frosting to graham cracker walls. Now, they have returned as volunteers to lend a hand to leaning walls.
"Extra frosting is the trick. It's the glue," instructed Wa-Hi sophomore Allie Greene as she helped one child build a foundation of frosting.
"It's a lot of fun to interact with the kids," said Wa-Hi junior Megan Thompson. "I grew up coming to the YWCA."