Catch them if you can … | NevadaAppeal.com

Catch them if you can …

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal "Father Christmas," Cal Dillon, looks at the gingerbread house creations at the Virginia City Visitors Center on Saturday.
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There’s a little bit of the Comstock in every Christmas.

Don’t think so?

Just ask Virginia City resident Cal Dillon (aka Father Christmas).

Dillon, in a traditional floor-length red velvet coat brought to life by a natural chest-length gray speckled beard and, of course, a twinkle in his eye – portrays the European counterpart to Santa Claus, and this weekend is helping oversee the judging of the 2007 Christmas on the Comstock Gingerbread Contest.

“Vote all you want,” he said. “Voting for the (gingerbread) houses is kind of like voting for everything else in Nevada. Vote early, and as many times as you’d like.”

With a chuckle, Dillon admitted a Virginia City Christmas celebration is a little different than the regular “mall-culture” holiday faire.

“We get visitors from around the world and they really react (well) to Father Christmas,” he said. “Kids do too – (Father Christmas) looks a little different than Santa. He brings a little less, well … could you say ‘commercialism?'”

Merchants on Virginia City’s main drag hung out garland, bows, ribbons and wreaths in hopes that shoppers would break out from the late-week spate of the season’s first winter storms and file in to find “one-of-a-kind gift possibilities,” said Susan Lewis, proprietor of Sundance, a store selling gift and sundry items, like shoes, hats and jewelry.

Lewis also is organizer of this year’s Christmas on the Comstock Gingerbread Contest, one that visitors can judge through this afternoon.

“We’ve been doing this every year for the last seven or eight years,” she said. “Each year we’ve raised money for a different, specific cause here. We wanted to do something community-themed and charitable for Christmas – and this time of year.

“Something to bring the community together.”

Lewis said in past years, Christmas on the Comstock has raised money for cancer patients, local museums and nonprofits.

This year, the money merchants and community members raise will go to the Community Chest Inc., a 17-year-old nonprofit which helps provide programs and resource for young and old of all income levels in Virginia City.

“We’re going to give the money we (raise) this year to the (Community Chest’s) Food Closet,” Lewis said. “A lot of us don’t know what it’s like to go to bed without food in our stomachs.

“And this year is going to be particularly challenging for some – so it feels good to give back.”

Those looking to make a difference can attend tonight’s Gingerbread Contest and Auction, where the gingerbread house winners will be announced (voting takes place through 4 p.m. today at the Virginia City Visitors Center).

One of 23 entries will be crowned with the “People’s Choice” award – and all houses will be up for auction.

“It’s almost like asking people to give twice,” said Becky Orr, spokeswoman for the Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority. “Once to ask them to build these wonderful creations and a second time to give them away.”

In the past, gingerbread houses have fetched up to $70 at auction – but the $100 mark is not out of the question, Orr said.

“We have some very intricate well-crafted houses this year,” she said.

To guarantee the homes’ quality and care, building inspectors from Storey County also will be on-hand to “certify” the gingerbread creations.

“It’s kind of a fun little aside,” shopkeeper Lewis said. “The Gingerbread Man will also be our head auctioneer. It’s just a fun event for this close-knit community to come even closer together for those in need this time of year.”

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

If you go

What: Gingerbread Contest and Auction

When: 5:30 p.m. today

Where: Fourth Ward School, 537 S. C St., Virginia City

What it benefits: Community Chest Inc. Food Closet

The Contest: Twenty-three gingerbread house entries were submitted by locals; a special category for youth entries (13 and younger) will also be judged

Other info: A silent auction, appetizers and beverages will accompany the gingerbread house “main event.” To enter your vote for “People’s Choice” stop by the Virginia City Visitors Center at 86 C St. before 4 p.m.