Thatched roofs made of almond slices. Lights streaming through the colored windows of Jolly Ranchers. Suger-coated gummies for stepping stones. Candy cane light posts.
These are the sweet ideas that have sprung from the minds of youth contestants entered in the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center’s sixth annual gingerbread house contest.
An assortment of 22 carefully crafted gingerbread houses currently sit against the outer walls of the conference room at the visitors center, which is open for the viewing public every day until 5 p.m. until Dec. 21, when the houses will be reclaimed by their owners.
The spirit of the event, said Kenai Chamber President Johna Beech, is based in the creativity that abounds from the tasty creations.
“Creativity is always a plus,” Beech said. “We like to see how much originality goes into it, and we favor gingerbread designs, although we’ve had ones that have had log cabin pretzel sticks.
“There was one year, someone did a stain glass window with melted Jolly Ranchers. It was absolutely beautiful.”
Beech said during her childhood, her mother crafted gingerbread houses for shows, and sometimes created entire villages made of sweet and tasty supplies. That is where the idea came from, and Beech said the communities of Kenai and Soldotna needed something similar during the short winter days to add a little sparkle.
“It’s more about community engagement,” Beech said. “It’s giving parents something to do with their kids.”
The contest is divided into three age groups — ages 9 and under, 10 to 15, and 16 and over, with cash prizes going to the winners of each category. The oldest group winner will receive $100.
Beech said the judging will take place Tuesday, when the Kenai Chamber board of directors will have their say in who pieced together the most impressive and original design. The winners of each age group will be called and the results posted on the chamber website.
Beech said the only stipulation required for entries was that contestants had to provide their own base, which could measure no larger than 24 inches by 24 inches.
The contest creations will stay up until Dec. 21, after which Beech said contestants can either take home their gingerbread houses or leave them to be dumped.
“If (contestants) don’t take them home, they go to gingerbread heaven,” Beech quipped. “They’ll go stale otherwise.”