For gingerbread man, it's Christmas in August
With temperatures pushing 90 degrees, winter wonderlands and Christmas trees are the last things on most minds.
But for Jon Lovich, who lives on the 23rd floor of Gateway Towers in the center of Downtown, visions of sugar plums are his biggest preoccupation right now. His Christmas season starts in February, when his laundry room transforms into a workshop to build a gingerbread kingdom. It grows as the year progresses.
“This was a functional laundry room up until a few days ago,” Lovich said, gesturing to shelves and tables piled with more than 2,100 pounds of icing, gumdrops and gingerbread.
The founder of GingerBread Lane — an annual display of more than 100 gingerbread houses — Lovich has displayed his work for 19 years, including the past six in Pittsburgh.
“I start around the first week of February,” he said. “I'm putting in 80 or 90 hours a week by November.”
Lovich, originally from St. Louis, began making houses after seeing what a pastry chef had whipped up.
His gingerbread kingdom has grown from a modest 12 houses in 1994 to the 142 that were displayed last year at Station Square.
“The excitement started building as soon as we announced that it would be there,” said Station Square marketing director Shelly Yugar. “We had many, many days where at any given time, there were lines of people walking around and observing the pieces.”
An estimated 400,000 visitors came to see GingerBread Lane last year.
Despite his years of making the candy-coated villages, the Christmas spirit doesn't always come easily, especially when it has to last 10 months.
“It's interesting,” he said about living Christmas year-round. “It's hard in November when everyone's in the spirit and you're like, ‘Really? I just want to watch football and order a pizza.'”
He said he sometimes puts on a Christmas movie while he works or plays a Christmas song in the car amid the pressing summer heat just to keep himself in the spirit.
“Especially now, in August, it's hard to motivate myself to do it,” he said.
More difficult than staying in the spirit, he said, is the weather.
With humidity what it is, pieces must be assembled and sealed just so or else the houses can implode.
It helps to see people's reaction when the display is finished.
“The crowd is so deep you can't even get to it,” Lovich said. “You hear people squeal with glee. They touch it, they scream, they photograph it.
“When I see people enjoy it, that's why I do it.”
His 2012 display will be housed at Station Square again and will include 146 houses along with a carousel, toy shop and hotel — all 100 percent edible, if not exactly fresh.
Lovich estimates that he's about 35 percent finished with the display and has about 15 percent of the houses done.
“I'm pretty far along for August,” he said.
The display will open at 10 a.m. Nov. 12 and run through Jan. 6.
Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5644 or firstname.lastname@example.org.