GAYVILLE — Later this month, area residents will be gathering for what is fast becoming one of the more popular — and tastier — local holiday traditions.
Gayville's holiday cookie exchange will be taking place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22, at RJ Riders Bar & Grille.
For the event, interested people make a large batch of a single type of cookie, which they then share at the exchange.
"You just sign up and then we give you a call and tell you how many people signed up," said Missy Taggert, event coordinator. "Last year, we did two cookies per person, and we had 43 people signed up, so you had to do 86 cookies and bring them. You bring one kind, and you go home with 43 different kinds."
Taggert said she hopes for at least 40 participants again this year.
"We set it up buffet-style," she said. "Everybody brings their own container, and once everybody's there we just go around the table and pick up whatever assigned number of cookies per person there is. We usually have munchies there and everybody has a toddy or a soda, and then just hang around and visit."
The cookie exchange usually lasts an hour or two. A number of area vendors will also be attending.
"It's a girls' night out," Taggert said. "(But) guys can come, too."
Participants don't need to limit themselves to cookies, she said. Past exchanges have featured a wide variety of baked goods, including baklava, fudges, rosettes, krumkake and peanut brittle.
"There's usually something new that you haven't had before," said event coordinator Lisa Tripp.
There is only one rule: "Slice and bake" dough cookies are not permitted.
"If you're not going to mix them up and cook them, don't bother to come," Taggert said, laughing.
"We want homemade," Tripp added.
Although she hasn't decided whether she'll be participating in the exchange this year, Tripp said she usually makes Bing bars.
"I'm a bar person," she said. "Mix it and slap it in the pan."
Taggert said, "I like to try a new recipe every year, so this year I've got white chocolate cranberry."
Tripp said the people who take part in the exchange always have "a great time."
"This year, we had one lady that called and wanted to sign up before we even had it ready to go," she said.
Although Tripp and Taggert can't remember exactly when they started the cookie exchange, they know it was at least four years ago.
"Lisa and I have always done a lot of baking, and we thought, 'This will be an easier way to do it,'" Taggert said.
They also saw it as a good way to do some socializing.
"We just thought it would be fun to get together," Tripp said.
"If we're not at work, we don't go anywhere, so this is a time to go somewhere and do something, other than just being at home and being at work," Taggert said.
That's one of the best parts about the cookie exchange, Tripp said.
"You see people you don't normally see a lot. This is like what you'd call a 'bedroom town,' I guess. People work out of town, so they're only here at night," she said.
"Everybody has good intentions of getting together, but it doesn't always happen because everybody's so busy," Taggert added.
Sign-up sheets are available at CorTrust Bank in Gayville, as well as RJ Riders Bar & Grille. People can also sign up by calling the bank at 267-4487, and RJ Riders at 267-2699
A phone number is requested so participants can be informed of how many cookies they will need to make.
Taggert said anybody who is interested can participate.
"It's not just a 'cliquey' group of people," she said. "We have called and expanded the invitation to everybody. … It's something I wrote on the invitation: 'Good friends, good time equals a great recipe.'"