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Article updated: 7/30/2013 9:11 AM

Naperville holiday art to feature gingerbread men

By Marie Wilson

Twenty-five larger-than-life gingerbread men will grace downtown Naperville for a full two months this Christmas season as the Downtown Naperville Alliance sponsors its second decorated sculpture promotion.

The gingerbread men now standing "naked" at a Naperville public works facility will follow a flock of decorated snowmen displayed last year around the holidays in the city's first temporary public art display since 2008.

"We revealed snowmen to the delight of the customers," Katie Wood, executive director of Downtown Naperville Alliance, said about last year's display. "That was bringing back a very popular tradition in Naperville."

Painted sculptures had been a downtown staple for eight years in the 2000s when the United Way had a chapter in town and held an auction of statues displayed each summer including mermaids, giraffes and dragons.

"When they left town, so did the sculptures," Wood said, referring to the Naperville United Way's merger in 2008 with a DuPage County chapter. "It was always such a popular event that we wanted to bring them back."

Shoppers last year said they enjoyed snapping photos with the creatively decorated snowmen and voting for their favorites online. Business sponsors get their name featured in a visible downtown location, and when the holidays are over, they get to keep the sculpture to display in their headquarters, donate to charity, give to a customer or use any way they choose.

"It was a fun addition to an already bustling holiday shopping season," Wood said.

The gingerbread men will be painted, glazed and anchored to downtown streets for a longer period this year than last and online voting will be available again at downtownnaperville.com.

They will be unveiled Friday, Nov. 8 -- the same day Naperville will flip the switch on its downtown lights. Wood said the date has been moved up to precede the Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 10.

Seven gingerbread men still are up for grabs, but 18 already have been claimed by business sponsors including Bob Jung Painting and Decorating, Riverwalk Family Dental, Little Luxuries and the nonprofit public art group Century Walk Corp.

Artists chosen by those organizations, including many Naperville schoolchildren, already have begun submitting preliminary designs for how they will bring excitement and holiday cheer to the plain gingerbread statues.

"We're just starting to get in example sketches," Wood said, "and they're adorable."

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