Holiday cheer

Last Thursday, for the second year in a row the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort lifted the curtain on a structure standing more than a dozen feet tall at its peak, built entirely from gingerbread, chocolate, sugar and pound upon pound of sweet, sweet candy.

The resort hosted hundreds of members of the local community to unveil the massive gingerbread house as a kickoff to its holiday season celebrations which included carolers, a cookie decorating station, free hot cocoa, holiday movies and a photo opportunity with Old Kris Kringle and The Grinch. 

“It’s our way of thanking the community for supporting us throughout the year,” said Ghee Alexander, Hilton’s general manager. “We feel that a good kickoff to the holiday season is important. We love to see the kids interacting with Santa, and the enthusiasm and the joy that it brings to them makes us feel good—and it’s a great opportunity to show off the resort to the community.” 

The team at Hilton looked to incorporate the resort’s “uniquely southwestern” theme into the design and the result was an adobe-style home decorated for the holiday season. Fully furnished and featuring a mock fireplace, the charming and delicious bungalow wouldn’t look out of place in one of Tucson’s historic districts—if not for the pounds of sugar and lollipops adorning the walls.

But Atkins dieters beware: According the the Explorer’s back-of-the-envelope calculations, the gingerbread house is home to roughly 317,000 carbs.

Hilton Pastry Chef Dawn Garcia-Webb, one of the dozen or so people behind the structure’s completion and one of the house’s 

designers, said that work on the project began with assembling the frame two weeks before Thanksgiving. With work finishing up on Nov. 30, Garcia-Webb was able to take a moment to appreciate the work she and her team put in over the previous weeks and reflect on a confectionary masterpiece she played a part in creating.

“I really wanted to stick with our ‘Uniquely Southwest’ theme, and that’s how I came up with the idea of the adobe style house: exposed bricks with stucco all over it with a touch of wooden pieces here or there,” she said. “My vision really came into reality. It’s definitely nice to have the creative freedom to come up with different designs every year.”

Though the unveiling is over, Alexander said that the resort will continue celebrating the holiday season through the New Year with “The Ten Days of Christmas,” set to begin Dec. 24. The event will be incorporating a new, special holiday twist each day into the property, Alexander mentioned a peppermint rub spa treatment as one potential treat.

Alexander said the Hilton will also treat the community’s appetite for a delicious holiday meal with dinners served on the lobby mezzanine overlooking the gingerbread house.  The dinner is available weekends from 5 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 24 with a special fixed-price Gingerbread House Menu available for $45 per person. 

Regardless of how the community celebrates the holiday season, Alexander said he is happy to be a part of the Oro Valley community.

“The resort has always had a huge tie to the local community,” he said. “Frankly, being 34 years old today, prior to us there wasn’t really a whole lot in Oro Valley. The Town of Oro Valley and the resort have in some ways grown together over the years and it’s only fitting that we say thanks to that same community.”

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