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Quincy baker preps for annual gingerbread house contest

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 1, 2012 03:07 PM

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Veneto's nephew, Ginger Charlie, stands behind the gingerbread creation, which took 80 hours to construct.

Beth Veneto, the owner of Ginger Betty’s Bakery in Quincy, is heading into her 18th year in the 19th Annual Gingerbread House Competition with hopes high.

Having won Best in Show in years past for her Wizard of Oz house, her Christmas in Iraq decoration, and the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set-up, and with several children’s choice awards under her belt, this year’s four-foot by four-foot creation could be another winner.

“This one here was about 80 or so hours, from start to finish, [to make],” Veneto said of this year’s entry. “We have our gingerbread team, some people are cutting cookies, some decorating. It’s pretty much a team effort.”

The entry has about 50 pounds of gingerbread on the mold, and enough candy for approximately 12 cavities, Veneto joked.

“It’s pretty heavy, and lots of sugar and candy, lollipops,” she said over the phone.

Veneto’s creation will be one of almost two dozen at this year’s competition, which is part of the 26th Annual Boston Christmas Festival taking place at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston from Friday through Sunday.

Some people come to the festival just to see the gingerbread houses, which grow in size and intricacy every year, said Florence Flynn, one of the co-founders and co-presidents of the event.

“The houses have gotten so intricate and so large and so beautiful. More and more and more so every year,” Flynn said. “And the public awareness, some people are just coming to look at the show, but are coming to see the gingerbread houses, they are that great.”

Typically, 12 to 20 houses are entered into the competition, some by individuals, others collaborative efforts with three dozen people or more participating in the creation.

Along with the festival at large, over 30,000 people come in throughout the three days to see the gingerbread houses and shop at the hundreds of craft vendors.

Yet not only is the event just to view modern marvels of gingerbread art, the competition serves as a fund-raiser as well.

The houses are donated and then sold for charity. This year, the Gingerbread House Competition will benefit Housing Families Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending family homelessness.

“You’re talking thousands of dollars for a house. And people buy them, sometimes for themselves, but sometimes they buy and re-donate them – in the lobby of children’s hospitals, anyplace it cheers people up. It’s a neat thing,” Flynn said.

On average, the event raises $20,000 a year.

“[It] is a big deal to this organization and more than that, the organization gets to tell their story and show what they do to a huge crowd who isn’t necessarily aware of them. That’s a huge benefit for them,” Flynn said.

The chefs who bake and donate the gingerbread masterpieces also get to walk away with a number of awards. Typically judges are local celebrities, such as TV news anchors, or food writers and editors.

“They come and come with their children. It’s a festive affair for them, and they look at the houses and they judge them,” Flynn said.

Participants can win prizes for best decoration, most creative, and best tasting – as gingerbread cookies are handed out alongside the houses.

“Finally we have a special award the kids judge – called the kids choice. Last year, Harry Potter’s castle won. Year before that was Red Sox stadium. It’s really fun,” Flynn said.

And while competition may be steep going into this year’s event, Veneto is ready, having been making gingerbread houses since childhood, and now with her bakery specializing in gingerbread.

“Once you get into it, things change. Sometimes the plan you have kind of changes, but that’s fun and it doesn’t really matter,” she said. "But I thought we’re pretty well prepared this year, and last night we were there till 12:30 getting finishing touches on.”

For more information on the event, visit here.

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