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Classic story themes dominate annual gingerbread contest

Article Date: 
21 December, 2012 (All day)

In her second year of competing, Krista Johansen took first place for her edible architecture.  Last year’s creation was a mock-up of Commercial Street that took second place honors.  This year’s creation was started a week before the turkey and pumpkin pie were served on Thanksgiving Day.  For the average gingerbread house, starting this early would mean there was plenty of time to work on it here or there.  But Johansen’s elaborate design required her to work about four hours daily to complete it in time for judging.  
Johansen didn’t create an average gingerbread house.  She created the whole town of Whoville from Dr. Suess’s, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  Forgoing the right angles and straight walls of traditional homes, she had to be creative to craft the dome tops and rounded shaped buildings.  She used her KitchenAid mixing bowl turned upside down to mold the rounded building and wire mesh to form the roofs.  “I wanted to do something I could be creative with,” Johansen said of why she chose her design.  She was inspired at a candy shop in Gardner Village that offers bright and colorful candies.  
Kristal Bybee may have found it difficult to transport a 3 foot tall gingerbread tower, but even after the quick fix on site, she was pleased with the results.  “I just love doing gingerbread,” Bybee exclaimed.  She recreated Rapunzel’s tower with exquisite detail and won second place, the Mayor’s Choice and People’s Choice Award.   A golden mane draped from the open window, which gave view to the sun painting famous in Disney’s version of the story.  
Bybee began working on her gingerbread house around the end of October and worked on it almost daily.  In the beginning she would take a small task at a time such as mixing the ingredients one day and then baking the next.  As the deadline drew closer she increased her time each day.  This elaborate design is obviously the work of an experienced decorator; Bybee has been making gingerbread houses for 17 years now.  It began as a hobby. Bybee and her mom were introduced to this hobby by Ruth Little.  Bybee now enjoys working on them with her own children now.  Her two youngest children helped place rocks on the spiraling tower. Bybee’s oldest child Melanie is set to follow in her mother’s talented footsteps.  Melanie, age 8, is given credit for a lot of the inside including the blue background of Rapunzel’s painting.  Gretchen Richards placed third in the adult category for her creation.
Amanda and Jason Allen’s family have an activity advent calendar where each day they open a gift to see what they will do together that night.  After seeing the flyer for the gingerbread contest Allen decided it would be a perfect activity for their young family.  Their entry won first place in the family category.  Matthew age 8, Ryan 6, and Chloe 19 months all helped work on the project.  Little Chloe made her own Smarties tree.  The older two worked on all the other trees but they particularly enjoyed working with the marshmallow fondant snow.  This gingerbread scene is both cute and clever. It depicts Angry Birds, a popular game, including the colorful pigs.  However Allen creatively drew in another story line giving the pigs each a house: one straw, one sticks and one brick.  Allen says they spent a total of about 12 hours on it.  After the kids became tired of helping (and sneaking candy) they would go to bed and she would continue to work into the night.  They would wake up excited about the progress their mother had made the night before.  “My kids love angry birds,” Allen said.  She laughingly gives credit to Jason for carrying the gingerbread scene in to enter it. Sydney Hairfield won second place and Morgan Hairfield won third in the family category.  
Rachel Wheelwright won first place in the kids category, which is what she had her sights on as soon as she saw the prize- $50.  She said her first thought was, “Wow, $50 that would be an amazing prize!” She plans on using some of the money to buy Christmas presents and, like an savvy investor, plans to use the rest to enter again next year to earn even more money.  She tried out different candies and cereals to give it the right look and finished off the custom house with Oreos for decorative rock look.  She worked on it for several days and says it took her, “Six hours and 36 minutes most likely.”
Decorating talent must run in families because second place winner in the kids’ category was Kymberly Vesper, daughter of Jennifer Vesper, award-winning gingerbread artist and organizer of the gingerbread event.  Third place winner was Jaren Johansen, son of Krista Johansen, first place winner in the adult category.