The streets of downtown Berryville were quiet Saturday night as construction crews came out in force to begin work on a slew of new building projects that will adorn the Main Street landscape. But there was no heavy equipment involved and the construction materials transported in for this flurry of activity consisted of cookies, icing, and lots of candy. The event was the annual gingerbread house competition at Jane’s Lunch.
Now in its third year, the event is an opportunity for friends to gather over the holidays and compete for bragging rights while, at the same time, raising funds for local charities. Solo artists and teams construct gingerbread houses that are placed in the front window of Jane’s Lunch and remain there throughout the Christmas holiday. The houses are numbered so patrons and passersby can vote for the house they like best by placing the number of the house they like with a donation in an envelope. The envelopes are collected in a bucket and at the end of the competition, votes and donation amounts are tallied to determine the winner.
Event organizer Kelly Lake said, “The winner is the house with the most votes. It’s not necessarily who raises the most money, but you do get special recognition if you raise the most.”
In their first year the group raised $200 dollars for FISH of Clarke County. Last year they blew past their previous mark by raising almost $1000 dollars for the Clarke County Senior Center Meals on Wheels program. This year they will once again be helping Meals on Wheels and are looking to surpass their previous amount.
“Local businesses really helped out last year,” Kelly said. “This year the Senior Center is really struggling so we hope we can raise even more than last year.”
As construction began around 6:00PM, all the tables were packed with eager designers and colorful materials. Everything used must be edible so there were plenty of candies and cookies as well as frosting and of course, gingerbread.
Some teams had planned all year for their creations while others arrived with no plan at all and instead relied on inspiration derived from the group’s energy.
As work proceeded into the evening, a collection of structures began to emerge. A gas station, a house with a barn, a dog house complete with Snoopy and Woodstock all began to take form. Everyone worked smiling and laughing but with an intensity that made it clear this was indeed a competition.
Kim Shiley and her teammate Marta worked on a blue and silver themed house and commented on the extensive preparation that had gone into their effort. “We have been on the phone and texting each other all week saying, ‘Do you have this or do you have that?'” Their extensive stockpile of supplies gave them many opportunities to improvise. Kim heated Starburst candies and rolled them into thin sheets to make decorative elements.
When asked who last year’s winner was Kelly laughed as she admitted her team had won for two years straight. “They’re all after us this year, but we’re not going down without a fight.”
Stop by Jane’s and support this holiday endeavor by adding your vote and your donation. Checks can be made out to the Clarke County Senior Center and are tax deductible.
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