PARKERSBURG - The aroma of gingerbread overwhelms visitors when they enter the Blennerhassett Hotel where the Gingerbread House Competition sponsored by First Neighborhood Bank has found a new home this year.
The annual competition was held at the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, but the change in venue to the Blennerhassett Hotel brings the contest to a more centralized location for residents, said Dorinda Conner, director of hotel operations at the Blennerhassett where the displays of sweets line the common areas.
For this past week, the Gingerbread House Competition entries shared their display areas with the 27th annual Easter Seals Festival of Trees fundraising display.
Photo by Gretchen Richards
Annalyse Braden, 13, reassembles her Rudolph figure after a transportation accident caused his head to fall off. Braden’s Santa’s Workshop entry is one of 51 gingerbread houses on display at the Blennerhassett Hotel until Jan. 1.
Photo by Gretchen Richards
Tracy Lott shows off her students’ creation at the Blennerhassett Hotel. The gingerbread house, crafted by 20 students at Presley Ridge at White Oak School, is one of 51 entered in this year’s competition.
With the trees sent off to their new owners on Friday, the gingerbread entries remain as a way of bringing the holiday cheer to those who visit the Blennerhassett Hotel this season.
The 51 gingerbread houses will be on display at the Blennerhassett Hotel through Jan. 1, Conner said.
"This is just our way of extending the holiday season after the tree auction this year," said Conner.
Winners of the 2013 Competition
*?1st, Robert Pierce
*?2nd, Sue Evans
*?3rd, Jennifer Lemley
Junior Division (11-15 years)
*?1st, Korah Anderson
*?2nd, Graham Nesselrode
*?3rd, Pressley Ridge at White Oak School
Children's Division (10 years and under)
*?1st, Levi Frashure
*?2nd, Dylan, Emma and Gracie Hartline
*?3rd, Katie Nesselrode
"Once the trees are gone, the gingerbread houses will remain and be a source of delight throughout the holiday season," she said.
Visitors to the hotel are greeted by several gingerbread houses as soon as they step through the doors. The displays continue past the check-in counter and on a long table set up near the turn in the hallway.
Tables in an adjoining hallway lead back toward the coffee counter with several more entries. A few houses are displayed in the area between the check-in counter and the coffee counter.
The reading room, to the left as visitors enter the hotel, has been rearranged to display the gingerbread entries.
"Normally, this room is full of furniture and desks," said Conner. "We have taken all of it out and put it in other guest lounges to make room here," she said.
This room is crowded with contest entries. Displays line the walls, and a round table in the center displays several houses.
Conner pointed to the center-most gingerbread house, raised on a dais over the others, "This one is from a first-time gingerbread house decorator. She chose to do the Blennerhassett Hotel."
The tall spire of the hotel in this model is made out of cookies, and peppermint sticks hold up the hotel's awnings. Each window is decorated with icing underneath representing snow on windowsills.
Other displays include a Chinese festival theme, a display from the video game Minecraft, a castle with a dragon on the lawn, and several traditional gingerbread houses.
A Smurf village features a bridge made of pretzels and graham crackers. In the back hallway, the child's entry featuring Peanuts characters is a crowd favorite.
Every part of the entries are edible, with construction using such food items as Chex cereal for roof tiles and pretzel sticks for walls. Gumdrops and swirled candy canes represent trees and bushes in yards. Chocolate melting wafers pave walkways, and hard candies stand in for treasure guarded by a castle dragon.
Desirea Braden, 38, of Marietta, revealed some of her gingerbread secrets while setting up her entry on Monday. Braden was once a professional cake decorator. She was helped by her daughter, 13-year-old Annalyse Braden.
"It was a fun mother-daughter project for us," said Desirea Braden. "I did the main construction pieces, and Annalyse did all of the figures. It turns out, she's really good at making them," she said.
Annalyse Braden smiled as she set up her figures in the Santa's Workshop scene. "It was a lot of fun to make these," she said. "I used fondant to make all the figures, and vodka as the glue to hold them together because it evaporates so quickly," she said.
Tracy Lott, 41, of Petroleum, set up the display from her classroom. A literature teacher at Presley Ridge at White Oak School, Lott entered a piece constructed by 20 11-to-15-year-old female students.
"I'm really proud of my students," said Lott. "We used writing to describe everyone's ideas for the gingerbread house," she said.
Between the Festival of Trees and the Gingerbread House Competition, the Blennerhassett has been more crowded than usual, said Conner.
There are four categories in the competition this year. The adult category features entries from those 16 and older, and forbids the use of gingerbread kits. Prizes were $2000 for first, $750 for second and $400 for third.
The junior category is for participants from 11 to 15. Prizes were $500 for first, $250 for second and $100 for third.
The children category is for those 10 and younger. Prizes were $125 for first, $75 for second and $50 for third.
The fourth category is a hotel employees-only category, and not eligible for prizes. There were three entries in this category.
All entries were judged on originality and creativity, overall appearance, choice and use of materials, and difficulty of design.
Judging for the Gingerbread House Competition ended on Friday. This year's judges included an architect, a contractor, a culinary professional, and two art and design professionals. The winners were notified during an entrants-only awards ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Visitors to the Blennerhassett Hotel can view the entries for free from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. until Jan. 1.