Constructing confectioneries

Gingerbread: A contest at the Hays House Museum shows off who's the best architect in the kitchen this holiday season.

December 26, 2004|By Matthew Kasper | Matthew Kasper,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Last year, there were no losers in the gingerbread house competition at the Hays House Museum on Kenmore Avenue in Bel Air.

Of course, there was also only one winner, recounted Hays House director Millicent Jordan, because there was only one entry in the event sponsored by the Historical Society of Harford County.

"We don't really want to publicize that," Jordan said.

The contest was pushed back a week this year so it wouldn't conflict with the Bel Air Armory's gingerbread contest, and more than 40 Bel Air high school students participated.

Eleven people were awarded plastic Christmas tree ornaments for working on one of the four winning houses, out of 12 entries. All the participants last Sunday received a "Certificate of Sweetness."

Bel Air resident Donna Nohe, 40, won the adult category for her gingerbread replication of Liriodendron, the historic summer home of Johns Hopkins Hospital physician Dr. Howard Kelly.

Bel Air High School students Gina Alaimo, Carlye Brunson, Helen McDermott, Erica Stegman, Amanda Mascari, Carrie Stein, Brittany Perzan and Christina Sisselberger won the teen category for their gingerbread house, Candy Colonial, whose theme fit with the Colonial motif of the Hays House, according to judges, although the lollipop lights and cinnamon-stick fire logs certainly didn't cost them creativity points. And 10-year-old Elizabeth Bott of Holy Cross Academy, tied for first with her sister, Ashleigh Bott, 7, also a pupil at Holy Cross Academy, in the children's category.

"She [Elizabeth] kept saying, `I just know mine's going to win,'" said the girls' grandmother, Edgewood resident Janet Bott, who estimated she spent $100 on candy and eight hours of preparation working on the three homes they entered in the contest.

One of the winning Bott houses resembled a small castle with Twizzlers for drawbridge strings. Another had a streetlight made with a candy cane post and a marshmallow light.

"I put an `MC' on the front of mine for `Merry Christmas,'" Ashleigh said, pointing at two loopy letters frosted over a front door ornamented with M&M'S.

Although there were no official rules for the contest, Jordan said traditional gingerbread house contest rules dictate that everything must be edible.

Unlike other gingerbread house contests, however, Jordan said no one has been awarded cash prizes in the six years of the Hays House contest.

Some people traveled from as far away as Columbia to pick up pointers, such as Neill Hodgkinson, 13, and his sister, Amanda, 11, who both said they were preparing for an interfamily gingerbread house competition judged by relatives coming from Michigan and West Virginia.

As Neill went from house to house, photographing gumdrop roofs and gummi bears riding candy cane sleds, he said he was picking up a lot of good ideas.

"A Pop Tart for a door," he said, "I never would have thought of that in a million years."

Others stopped by the Hays House to check up on the candy artists.

Sandra LeBarron, an Abingdon resident and Bel Air High School art teacher, came by to see whether any of the students in her housing styles and interior design class were there.

"I'm hoping some of the kids show up today," she said, walking from room to room with her 7-year-old daughter, Hannah.

LeBarron said that after seeing the Hays House gingerbread contest advertised on the Internet, she realized it would be the perfect assignment for the students she is teaching about architecture.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving she announced that all of her students would be entering the contest, with their gingerbread homes counting as 50 percent of their grade on an architecture project they were working on.

LeBarron's class produced six houses. Onlookers said they enjoyed seeing the interesting creations, such as the bottom of Santa's licorice feet poking out of the chimney of "25 Candy Cane Lane."

But the star was Nohe, whose gingerbread house won $100 for second place in the Bel Air Armory competition the week before.

Nohe said that she had planned to make a lighthouse. Then she found the picture of Liriodendron - a Bel Air landmark - on the Internet, she said, and the choice was easy.

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