SOUTH WINDSOR — For many, creating a gingerbread house is as simple as gluing four walls and a roof together with icing, and decorating with assorted candies.
For those who have entered their gingerbread-based creations into the 11th Annual Gingerbread House Festival held by the Wood Memorial Library though, the process is much more complex.
Dozens of these creations, ranging from houses to historical scenes to pop-culture references, are being displayed at the festival, and visitors can expect to be blown away by how much effort went into each one. Each gingerbread scene features precisely placed candy garnishing, immaculate icing work, and unique uses of materials, all of which must be edible.
If you go
WHAT: Dozens of creative gingerbread houses are on display at the 11th Annual Gingerbread Festival, held by the Wood Memorial Library and Museum.
WHEN: Admission to the festival, which started on Nov 26 and ends Dec. 19, is free, she said.
THEME: This year’s theme is “Happy Golden Days,” as the library is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The name for the theme comes from the lyrics of the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
“It’s a community event,” said Carolyn Venne, executive director of the library, who added that a volunteer came up with the idea to have a holiday gingerbread festival at the library 11 years ago.
“It just took off, it’s unique and it’s a great setting,” Venne said, adding that she believes it is the largest gingerbread festival in New England, even attracting people from other parts of the country. Admission to the festival, which started on Nov 26 and ends Dec. 19, is free, she said.
Every year, the festival selects a central theme for the gingerbread houses to follow, Venne said. This year’s theme was set as “Happy Golden Days” because the library is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
“The 50th anniversary is a golden anniversary,” Venne said, and she explained that the name for the theme comes from lyrics of the song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
The theme could be seen in the gingerbread creations on display, with some of the houses being dyed gold and others depicting nostalgic scenes such as a vintage television or historic South Windsor buildings.
“There are some purists in the organization that only want them to be gingerbread houses, but I like everything,” Venne said. Some of the houses created by younger children were even made with Pop-Tarts instead of gingerbread, a testament to the creativity of the participants.
One of the visitors of the event on Sunday was Helen O’Lander, who was struck by the creativity of the displays.
“I think it’s awesome, especially the creativity of the little ones,” she said.
The numerous gingerbread houses also impressed Pam and Doug Stack, local residents who were visiting the festival for the first time on Sunday.
“It’s very nice, we love the kids’ ones and we like that they involve the children,” Pam Stack said.
“It makes me want to try making one next year,” she added.
In addition to the gingerbread displays, there is also a table of archived photos from South Windsor, in addition to a Christmas tree loaded with photos of the library’s past volunteers in order to further honor the “golden days.”
Venne said 150 gingerbread houses were entered into the festival this year, and that as many as 10,000 people have visited the festival in past years. This year, though, visitation is a bit lower because of the pandemic, she added.
Despite this, Venne is happy that the festival is back in the library after being held outdoors at The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk last year due to the pandemic.
“It’s been really nice to see people again and have the building come alive again,” she said, adding, “it’s easier to do it here than at Evergreen.”
In addition to the gingerbread displays, there is also a gift shop with items from local artisans and crafters, with products such as honey, soap and jewelry available. Venne said this shop serves as a fundraiser for the library, since admission to the festival is free.
There are also several activities that visitors can participate in, including a scavenger hunt and a raffle, with a chance to either win some of the gingerbread houses on display or a separate prize.
As for next year, Venne said it would be harder to come up with themes from here on out as so many ideas have been done already.
“Now we’re at a little bit of a loss, but we have ideas,” she said. One of the future ideas Venne suggested was a “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme.
Ben covers Coventry and Tolland for the Journal Inquirer.