A gingerbread replica of Wolf and Dessauer department store in Fort Wayne, Indiana
Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Wolf & Dessauer department store rendered in cookie at the
25th Annual Festival of Gingerbread.

Getting and Giving

If you’re in the mood to merge holiday-centric merriment with the spirit of giving, look to Fort Wayne. Indiana’s second largest city (incidentally, home of the country’s largest public genealogical research library) offers ways of celebrating while simultaneously donating to charitable causes; here are four good ones:

  1. Homes, (very) sweet homes
    The weekend of December 11th and 12th marks the close of Fort Wayne’s 25th Annual Festival of Gingerbread. Among the 100 or so cookie constructions featured in the Fest, our favorites were the replicas of Fort Wayne’s historic buildings, including edible versions of the Allen County CourtHouse, Parkview Field, and the Wolf & Dessauer department store. Stop by between 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 22nd, for a demo of the “Science of Sugary Structures.” Ticket proceeds go to support Fort Wayne’s History Center.
    GO Fort Wayne 25th Annual Festival of Gingerbread at the Fort Wayne History Center (302 E. Berry St.) from 9 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 11th, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, December 12th. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, and free for students and children under 5. For more info, call 260-426-2882 or go to fwhistorycenter.com.
  2. Walking with the stars
    Parkview Field—usually home to the TinCaps, a minor-league baseball team—becomes a starry memorial on Saturday, December 11th. From 5 to 7 p.m., visitors can walk the concourse near home plate under the glow of almost 60 “Memory Stars,” four-foot-tall twinkling LED displays, each purchased by a Fort Wayne resident as a memorial to a departed loved one. The mood is celebratory, not somber: As strollers take in the stars and read the brief remembrances, local students will perform a holiday concert in center field. Proceeds from the purchases of the stars support The Isaiah Center for Loss & Transition, Inc., and Stop Texting and Driving Distracted/Rodney Thompson Memorial Scholarship Fund.
    GO Parkview Field (1301 Ewing St.) from 5 to 7 p.m. on December 11th. For more information, call 260-482-6400 or go to tincaps.com.
  3. Driving to the light
    Fort Wayne’s Fantasy of Lights is a drive-through lighting display sponsored by the Anthony Wayne Services Foundation, a 50-year-old organization that helps those with mental or physical disabilities to find jobs and housing. Drive the 1.5-mile Fantasy route through Franke Park, and you’ll encounter roughly 70 sparkly displays, ranging from the secular (Santa stuck in a chimney) to the sacred (a Nativity scene.)
    GO Fort Wayne Fantasy of Lights at Franke Park (311 Sherman Blvd.), from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 6 to 9 p.m. on Sunday; $5 per car. For more information, call 260-456-2971 ext. 5874 or go to awsfantasyoflights.com.
  4. Homes for the holiday
    And finally, you know those little perfectly picturesque, light-up snow villages that invariably pop up in display windows this time of year? Fort Wayne has one of the largest such tiny towns in the Midwest, on display at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. The small town sprawl is actually a fund-raiser for real houses: Snow Village viewers are encouraged to make a donation to Habitat For Humanity. A block away at Fort Wayne’s Botanical Conservatory, you can walk through a life-size rendition of sweet spots on the Candyland classic board game.
    GO Holiday Houses for Habitat at the Grand Wayne Convention Center (120 W. Jefferson Blvd.). For more information, call 260-424-3700 or go to holidayhousesforhabitat.com.

    Candyland Holiday Exhibit at the Fort Wayne Botanical Conservatory (1100 S. Calhoun St.). For more information, call 260-427-6440 or go to botanicalconservatory.org.

Where to stay: For a good night’s sleep and interesting company, try the La Salle Bed & Breakfast (517 W. Washington Blvd., 877-422-0851, lasallebb.com). The innkeepers Clark and Rose-Aimee Butler are, respectively, a philosophy professor and Hegel scholar at Indiana University, and a former ballet instructor. Rates range from $75 to $110 per night.

Where to eat: For seafood, hit up The Oyster Bar (1830 S. Calhoun St.; 260-744-9490, fortwayneoysterbar.com). Carnivores will like the steaks at Club Soda (235 E. Superior St.; 260-426-3442, clubsodafortwayne.com).