These houses are edible

pseligson@newsobserver.comDecember 13, 2013 

The Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield played host this month to its second gingerbread house contest. With more entries than last year, the contest drew 14 creations in four categories: youth, teen, adult and family.

Margaret Marshall, the library’s director, said she hopes to make the contest an annual tradition. And next year, she wants to expand the competition to include all “edible creations,” not just gingerbread houses.

“I cannot believe the caliber of the houses,” Mitchell told the crowd that gathered Dec. 7 to hear the winners announced. “I was just flabbergasted by how beautiful they are.”

People who came by that morning could also decorate cookies and visit with Santa. The houses were on display through Dec. 14.

Jason Wenzel’s daughter, Marley, 5, and son, Yates, 2, both made gingerbread houses. Wenzel said Marley saved her Halloween candy for the project. “It’s just fun to see the magic of the holidays through their eyes,” the Clayton resident said.

Kelsey Hawkins, 15, of Smithfield found her cake design on Pinterest. She created a mug of hot chocolate, using chocolate and half-cut marshmallows to make it look like the mug was actually holding liquid.

Hawkins, a home-schooled high school sophomore, said she likes cake decorating, so this was a chance to try something different. She encouraged others to enter the contest next year. “It makes you just feel really good about yourself, and you can do something that’s really creative,” she said.

Brianna Vargas, 9, came to the library to view the different gingerbread houses. She said she wondered how people made them. “I like them because they’re pretty,” she said. “I wish I could eat them all.”

The Purdy family of Smithfield – mom Amy, dad Greg and son Nicholas – won the family category. Last year, Nicholas, now 5, told his parents he wanted to make a gingerbread house, and he saved his money to buy a starter kit.

Building was a team activity for the Purdys, who also won last year.

“It’s great because people get so busy during Christmas,” Amy Purdy said. “And so having an activity like this makes us slow down and spend some quality time together, and it’s just really fun, and we all really enjoy it.”

Purdy said she likes that Smithfield has so many family activities. “That’s why we like living in Smithfield,” she said. “Because we keep thinking about do we need to move to Raleigh? They always talk about how the schools are so good. ... The nice part of Smithfield is just everybody knows everybody, and there’s always something fun and family-oriented, and it’s a great place to grow up.”

Brier Ward, 11, of Smithfield made a gingerbread house because “it’s really fun to decorate gingerbread houses, and I really enjoy it – just being creative and using all the candy, making something beautiful edible.”

His sister, Ellie, 9, made a gingerbread house too. She likes to cook and had never made a gingerbread house before. Her favorite part? “That I could decorate it any way I wanted,” she said.

Their mom, Kathy, said she would recommend the experience to other families. “The joy was being in our kitchen and laughing and watching things come together and also watching things crash,” she said. “It was a lot of fun, but I would recommend having a lot of extra icing on hand to repair things. Overall, it helped us all get into the Christmas spirit.”

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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