Gingerbread house competition will benefit Children’s Home

lfabian@macon.comNovember 23, 2012 

Once Thanksgiving dinner has been digested, many families turn their attention to shopping and holiday decorating.

For some, like Macon’s Kathryn Dennis, that means creating gingerbread houses.

About a dozen years ago, Dennis’ mother thought it would be fun for her children and grandchildren to decorate houses on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

It became an all-day affair for the women as the men hit the golf course.

Dennis enjoys creating gingerbread churches too. Each year brings different designs and ideas.

“It really took off,” Dennis said. “It is such a memory for both my daughters and my niece.”

Goodies are delicately placed on slabs of gingerbread with globs of frosting that also cement walls together to create a confectionery castle.

“It’s been pretty amazing to see how many people do that each year as a family tradition,” said Lisa Wicker, grants and marketing coordinator for the Georgia Industrial Children’s Home.

“We wanted to encourage people to share their family tradition and meet our family.”

Supporters of the home on Mumford Road hope to capitalize on the Christmas custom by holding a contest to choose the best professional and amateur designs Dec. 2 at the home.

Novices will be categorized by age, with divisions for adults, preschoolers and children ages 5 to 11 and 12 to 17. Except for a plywood base and optional battery-operated lights, entries must be edible. One of Dennis’s daughters once fashioned a duck pond on her piece of plywood.

Katie Berry Moody, 9, of Gray decorated her first gingerbread house last year with her grandmother Phyllis Farmer, who is a volunteer at the home.

It wasn’t as easy as it looked, they said.

This year, they are entering the competition even after experiencing some “technical difficulties,” Katie said.

“The base was too big and it fell,” she said.

They searched the Internet, found a recipe for royal icing and watched a video.

“Thick royal icing, that’s the secret to everything,” Farmer said. “This is supposed to be our practice one, but I’m not sure we’re going to get to the other one.”

Peppermint sticks make a little fence near a walkway of Skittles. Gumdrops, holiday gummies and sugar shaped into Christmas bulbs round out the decor.

Baker Amanda Meadows offers this advice to first-time designers: “Plan a full day. I don’t think people really understand how long it takes, especially if you get real creative with it.”

Meadows crafted a gingerbread woman out of fondant Tuesday morning, adding butter cream icing for her hair, clothing and facial features.

Meadows, who owns Amanda’s Cakery on Cotton Avenue, will also be designing a non-edible gingerbread house of cake and fondant that will be auctioned off during the competition.

She’s also planning a trip to Asheville, N.C., next month for the National Gingerbread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn.

“I’ve never made a gingerbread house,” Meadows admitted, although she is considering entering Macon’s professional competition next year.

Mike and Joy Dyer, who support the home and advocate building a better rapport with the community, already decided to set up their collectible village at the home this year. They see the contest as a way to draw more people to meet the children and see what the home is about.

Entrants must reserve a place for their display by Nov. 29. Registration costs $25 for professionals and $15 for amateurs.

Proceeds will benefit the children’s home, which recently began a capital campaign to irrigate their pecan trees and market the harvested nuts. (Their second annual dinner in the orchard is set for May 18.)

First place gingerbread house winners will take home $150 in the professional category and $100 in the amateur divisions.

For more information, log onto www.twincedars.org or call (478) 474-8220.

Wicker has high hopes for growing participation in the future.

“Maybe five years from now, Grove Park Inn won’t have anything on Macon,” she said.

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