The tasty gingerbread house in the lobby at the Grand Traverse Resort The tasty gingerbread house in the lobby of the Grand Traverse Resort By MIKE NORTON Whew! What a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend it was! A little sun, a little rain - even a little snow - all slathered with lots of ferocious northern Michigan winds. (I'd forgotten about the famous "gales of November.") But the frightful weather made it all the more enjoyable to gather indoors with family and friends, to renew old relationships and start some new ones. And, of course, to eat WAY too much food! Hey, it's all part of the tradition... Speaking of traditions, it's great to hear that the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa is reviving one of Traverse City's favorite holiday rituals: the annual Holiday Festival of Lights. For decades, ever since the Resort's early days back in the 1980s, its grounds and public areas were decked with thousands of twinkling lights and animated displays from late November into early January. High school choirs and other entertainers would put on regular Christmas performances, and the whole celebration gave the season a bit of an elegant touch. But the decorations started to get a bit worn over time - and for several years the Resort decided it was better to skip the event altogether than put up the same tired displays. This year, though, the Festival of Lights is bigger and better than it's ever been. Resort management has invested about $15,000 in new interior décor this year, so there are LOTS of Christmas trees, poinsettias, and lights. (Want to know how many? Inside, over 600 feet of lighted garland, 70 poinsettias and 20 trees (the tallest is a full 20 feet) in the Grand Lobby and Gallery of Shops. Outside, there'll be some 35,000 incandescent lights on 1,400 feet of light-strings and 225 feet of LED light-strings on trees along the Resort Boulevard and in front of the Tower & Hotel.) But the best new treat of all is the edible display: an entire village constructed of gingerbread, created by the Resort's pastry chef, David Sicotte. The village, which includes a 24-sq.ft. house surrounded by a 70-ft. picket fence, took 800 pounds of dough, 200 candy canes, 200 pounds of royal icing, and four stained glass windows made from 60 pounds of casted and poured sugar. As always, Santa makes regular appearances on Saturday evenings from 4-6 p.m. The entertainers are back, too - the Traverse City Central High School Choral-Aires on Dec. 4, the Central High Symphony Strings on Dec. 9 and the Kingsley Jazz Prism on Dec. 11. There's even a rumor about a Dec. 18 appearance by the Resort's own Employee Choir. OK, I think it's cool that a resort has its own choir! As in previous years, the Resort is also conducting a Gingerbread House contest, and members of the public are invited to participate. The Holiday Festival of Lights is on display from now until Jan. 1. For more information on the Gingerbread House Contest Rules, contact the resort at 800-748-0303 or by e-mail at