Thursday, December 23, 2010
Ginger houses sweeten store windows
By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
It would be a stretch to say that people come from out of town just to enter the Iola Area Chamber of Commerce gingerbread house contest, but one family, visiting relatives in Iola, did take part.
The Dorst sisters, who live in Manhattan, were in town over Thanksgiving to spend time with their relatives, the Dunnes.
Emma and Grace, ages 7 and 9, constructed one house, while 11-year-old Chloe helped her little cousin, 3 1/2 year old Makayla Dunne, complete another.
Makayla’s mom, Lisa Dunne, said although this is the first time the girls have entered a contest, it isn’t the first time they have constructed gingerbread houses.
“They do it with their grandmother, Vickie Tholen, every year,” she said.
“It’s the first thing we do for the holiday to get in the spirit of Christmas,” Dunne said. “The girls even go shopping together for the candy” to decorate the houses.
Chloe and Makayla’s house is on display at Classy Attic, while Emma and Grace’s creation is at Jones Jewelry.
MARTHA HEFFERNON has entered the Chamber’s contest before. She favors using graham crackers as building blocks.
“I just like to do them,” Heffern said of building the houses. “An idea just pops in your head and you go with it.”
Heffern created a miniature village this year, with a main house, smaller house and church. She uses royal icing to frost and glue her pieces together “because it dries really hard,” she said.
Next year, Heffern may use actual gingerbread, she said.
“The gingerbread is thicker. It’s probably easier to work with. The crackers tend to bow,” she said.
Heffern’s village is on view at Town and Country. It received the People’s Choice Award.
For Jana Taylor, letting her 6-year-old son T.J. build a kit home was a way for him to participate in the family’s holiday baking “without him having his arms in brownie batter,” she said. “We bake a lot at the holidays and he always likes to help,” she added.
T.J. really enjoys gingerbread construction, she laughed. “He loves to build gingerbread houses — and eat them.”
Thomas “T.J.” Taylor’s house is visible at Duane’s Flowers.
ANOTHER ginger village was made by a village — of a sort. Both seniors and preschoolers in the Age to Age program at Windsor Place crafted a cookie village complete with school bus, on view at Iola Office Supply.
Windsor resident Jean Carr was one of the seniors involved.
Carr enjoyed camaraderie and competition among the builders, she said, “to see if you could get your candy on quicker than the guy next to you.”
Seniors and students all worked on the project throughout the course of a day, she said.
With that many hands came a few mouths that sampled the candies and cookies, she said. “That’s why it isn’t as big as it should have been,” Carr laughed.
Six to eight seniors and 27 preschoolers had a hand in the construction.
FIRST PLACE winner Barbara Anderson’s village is on display at the Allen County Historical Society.
This is her fifth entry into the contest, she said.
Anderson built her graham cracker-based creation over the Thanksgiving holiday with the help of her kids and grandkids, she said.
“I just think it’s a wonderful part of Christmas,” she said of constructing the houses, although next year, she may try actual gingerbread, she said.
“There was just too much humidity this year,” she said of using graham crackers. “It kept the crackers soft.”
Like Heffern, Anderson uses royal icing made with meringue powder to keep her construction together.
“One year I tripped,” while placing a house, she said, “that icing just stuck. It’s like cement.” The houses, Anderson said, “are more durable than you think.”
Despite winning first place, Anderson doesn’t consider herself an expert in architectural confections.
She does it for the fun, and to help add to the beauty of Iola’ downtown.
“We almost have a Norman Rockwell thing going on,” she said of Iola’s holiday charm.
All entrants will receive Chamber Bucks.