Project MOST, a nonprofit organization in East Hampton dedicated to providing year-round extracurricular enrichment programs for kids and families across the East End, is bringing a beloved tradition back just in time for the holidays.
The organization’s first ever gingerbread house contest and display starts next week, drawing folks young and old out to compete, and reviving a festive community event that was originally started by Mary Schoenlein, owner of former gourmet take out store and café Mary’s Marvelous.
Schoenlein, who will serve as one the judges for the competition, would display intricately decorated gingerbread houses in her storefront’s window during the holiday season, thus beginning the community-wide custom. “When the idea for us doing this first came up, we immediately wanted to collaborate with Mary,” says Jacqueline Gravina-Wohlleb, the nonprofit’s community program coordinator. “We were able to pick her brain about what to do, to ensure we were bringing back a successful event.”
In order to enter, participants must buy a ready-to-build kit that includes the sides and roof of the house featuring link and lock shapes notched with gingerbread panels. While no baking is required to assemble a house, “there are also bags of assorted candies, decorator bags and tips, plus premixed icing,” Gravina-Wohlleb says. Each group entering can have up to four builders. Kits are available here and cost $30 each.
“Participants are able to add additional materials to upgrade their decoration as long as it’s all edible,” she adds. “With the kit they will also receive rules and regulations to make sure that their creation(s) is/are eligible to enter the competition for judging and prizes.”
The competition will have nine winners, says Gravina-Wohlleb, with first, second and third place awarded in three categories. Categories include one for children ages five to 12 and another for teens ages 13 to 18. For both categories, no assistance from adults is allowed, however there is a separate third category that will include families and adults.
Completed houses may be dropped off between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. starting next Wednesday, December 13, at the Project MOST Community Center (44 Meadow Way, East Hampton) and continuing through Friday, December 15. Gingerbread houses may also be dropped off on Saturday, December 16 from 9 a.m. to noon.
Along with Schoenlein, judges will be John Graham, executive director of Hampton Racquet, and long-time East End resident, art dealer and philanthropist Arelene Bujese.
Winners will be announced during a free family-friendly event at the community center on Saturday, December 16. From 2 to 4 p.m., there’ll be complimentary hot chocolate and treats, arts and crafts plus a performance from local fire juggler Keith Leaf. In addition to some serious bragging rights, participants will have the chance to win a slew of cool prizes like an Amber Waves gift basket, gift cards for HUB Grub, Club House, Khanh Sports, and A La Mode, Lululemon merch, a movie theater gift basket, and passes to the Southampton Ice Rink. In addition to the judge’s vote, there will also be a popular vote winner.
After the competition, winning gingerbread houses will be on display at Bonfire Coffeehouse in Amagansett from December 18 to December 23.