Introduction: The Billboard That Ruined Christmas

About: (Is there a word that means more than "ultimate"? Oh well, I'l just make one up... "omnilent") Omnilently creative, MrCrumley fights a daily battle to save the world in his capacity as a multimedia superhero…

We live in an historic neighborhood with zoning restrictions that prohibit the erection of billboards and extremely large storefront signs.Two years ago, one of the older buildings in our business district was condemned and demolished. The building was dilapidated, but it did have one neat feature: a three-story, decades-old "Zahn's Dry Goods" sign painted on the side of it. After the building was demolished, a local business owner exploited a loose interpretation of grandfather clauses, and erected a very non-historic billboard where the building once stood. The neighborhood tried to intervene but was told by the city council that nothing could be done.

With Christmas approaching, and our neighborhood holding a gingerbread house competition, we decided to create a festive diorama of humorous protest, calling attention to our newest eye-sore. Thus was born, "The Billboard That Ruined Christmas."

We started by taking a few snapshots of the area. We decided to make the billboard and the adjacent building the focus of the piece. Using a screen capture of Goggle Maps, I sketched out the rough dimensions in Freehand so my wife could bake the 20-or-so pieces precut to size.

As she cooked the gingerbread, I cut a piece of 3/4" plywood into a 16" X 24" rectangle and drilled a 1/2" hole to set the billboard base into. The base was an 8" section of 1/2" PVC pipe, hot glued into the base hole. I cut two slits on either side of the pipe near the top, and hot glued a pair of popsicle sticks in them as supports for the billboard. I soldered together three AA batteries, some wire, a switch, and some LEDs (one, a red blinking LED), and slid the batteries inside the pipe. A little more hot glue and the switch and white LEDs were fixed in place. We finished the base by covering it with wrapping paper.

As the gingerbread cooled, we CAREFULLY sawed pretzels into the pieces to make the reindeer. After about an hour of tedious hot-gluing, we had nine, very awesome-looking pretzel reindeer. The best-looking was hot-glued to the red LED, and the other eight were glued in pairs along the wires leading back to the billboard base.

Now we started decorating the exterior walls. We used colored fruit rolls as the windows and doors. The store didn't have plain roll-ups (only Batman ones), so we cut them to minimize the readability of the printing. In hindsight, the printing actually gave the windows more depth, so... thanks, Batman. We cemented twizzlers and gummy lifesavers on as the building's various details and holiday decorations.

Assembling the building went well. The pieces fit together with only a few gaps that we were easily filled with icing. After the icing hardened, we covered the roof with more icing and began attaching the roll-up-covered awnings. The building's sign is made from graham crackers covered with icing.

For the billboard, we first covered the base with red roll-ups. Then, we sliced some graham crackers into the broken billboard shapes and covered them with icing and blue fruit roll-ups. We assembled the billboard with a combination of hot glue and icing.

I assembled the sleigh pieces while my wife cut up various Lego gummis and topped them with bows made of twizzler cross-sections. I folded a green roll-up into a bag shape and inserted a wad of gummi-presents into it. Santa is made from red gum-drops and icing.

As final details, we added more icing to the roof and sprinkled coconut shavings as snow. We also placed various gum drops and twizzler pieces around the building as shrubs and bushes.

I finished the piece by printing out a nifty name card, complete with photo of the actual building, just so there was no doubt about the statement we we're making (so, yeah, we kinda hi-jacked Christmas for a local political message... 'tiz the season).

The response was universally positive. Also, we took home first prize, so that ain't bad either.

Gingerbread House Slideshow Contest

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Gingerbread House Slideshow Contest