All ages use imagination for Kenai gingerbread house contest

Some of the sweetest ideas featured at the annual gingerbread house contest hosted by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce prove that age is not a barrier to creativity.

The seventh annual gingerbread house contest challenged entrants of all ages to come up with the most decorative and impressive designs using the classic ingredients of the holiday season, along with a few modern twists.

Over a dozen gingerbread houses entered by central peninsula residents have filled the main room at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center for the past month, and this weekend was the last chance for the creations to be viewed by the public.

The age group winners all brought innovative ideas to the table that impressed the judges, from 8-year-old winner Noah Cole to 28-year-old winner Alicia Rodarte.

The overall category was won by Heidi Sorrell.

Cole claimed the 0-9 age group division, and said with help from his mother Amber, he constructed a train station with liquorice as the key ingredient for the tracks.

“I put liquorice for the train tracks, and on the house, I put shingle cookies on,” he said. “That’s all I remember.”

Amber Cole said she thought the contest would be perfect for her son, and Noah took it from there. Noah said he got the ideas for designing his house from a TV show, and he worked on it all in one afternoon.

“I did it after school,” he said. “It took a while for the frosting to dry right.”

The next age category, the 10-15 bracket, rewarded Finn Williams for his creative design. Williams, 11, warned when asked what he used that it’s a baker’s secret.

Williams did divulge that much of his work was done with custom designs using modern technology.

“We started with a log cabin idea, then it changed to more of a wilderness lodge,” Williams wrote in an email. “I made some of the custom cookie cutouts, like the moose mount and bear tracks by making cookie cutters and stamps on my 3D printer. I made the windows and pond from melted candy. And we strung some lights on the inside with hot glue.”

Williams added that he got the idea for a wilderness lodge from several books, his imagination and the internet. He also never believed he could win the contest having never entered one before.

In the 16-plus age group, Kenai’s Alicia Rodarte, 28, took home the winning honors. Rodarte said this year was her first time entering a gingerbread house contest, but she has plenty of experience working with baked goods.

“I’ve been making cakes for a while,” she said. “I’ve been doing it since I was fresh out of high school, doing it for like 10 years. It’s a good little hobby.”

Rodarte added that the decoration wasn’t too much different from designing a cake, but she still took to websites like Pinterest for ideas. Once she found an idea that caught her attention, Rodarte said she set to work bringing it to life, with a little help from her family.

“I couldn’t find a template for it, so I made my own,” she said. “I grew up with my dad in the construction business.”

Rodarte said she primarily used pretzels, icing and powdered sugar, as well as ice cream cones to create trees.

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