Dec. 17, 2007
By Emily Howard | Photos by Rick Fatica
The good-natured jabs of feisty contestants (and plenty of songs of the season) could be heard throughout Baker University Center's West 82 food court Thursday as 28 teams competed in what is expected to become an Ohio University holiday tradition. Their goal: build the most elaborate, colorful, awe-inspiring gingerbread house possible in the time allotted -- and build a little office camaraderie, too.
West 82 Gingerbread Decorating Contest teams were permitted to start their work at 8 a.m. Teams filtered in and out throughout the day, some leaving to do a few hours of work in hopes that their houses still would be standing upon their return. Most were.
Teammates snuck swipes of frosting and debated roofing materials while handling the bare walls of freshly baked gingerbread supplied by Catering Services.
The cheerful atmosphere infected the lunch crowd as patrons marveled at the teams' creativity. Didn't catch it? The community is invited to visit the Maggie Davis Room today and Tuesday to view the creations.
"I was surprised and delighted at the number of contestants who entered the contest and amazed at the team effort of each group," said Associate Director of Ohio University Catering Mary Jane Jones, a judge for the contest. "The sense of excitement and fun could be felt throughout the day, and most of all, teams are already planning for next year."
University College fielded two teams that, according to UC's Wendy Merb-Brown, were trash-talking and bating one another throughout the week. When asked which team they were from, members of the opposing University College team proudly stated "Engineering!" as the newly placed walls of their structure threatened to collapse.
Their holiday house remained intact, however, complete with garland, a marshmallow Christmas tree hedge-row and miniature candles in the windows. Meanwhile, Merb-Brown's team won style points with a gingerbread replica of a student rental, executed with impeccable detail down to the cornhole boards, expired parking meters and old couch on the porch.
The Admissions Office, also with two teams, sported festive green Ohio University apparel in the spirit of the season. (No grinches in this corner of the food court.) In fact, Jill Estep, Alisha Thacker, Lila Thacker, Jennifer Dillie and Lisa Lavelle of Team 10 Admissions were crowned the winners and best in show of the entire contest. Their brick home included a colorful Necco-wafer roof, brick pathway leading to the wreathed front door, sugar glass windows, woodland animals drinking from a pond and Santa Claus grinning from atop the chimney.
"We were thoroughly impressed with the attention to detail in the winning Admissions house," said contest adjudicator Matt Rapposelli, the university's executive chef. "They thought of everything and executed each piece of their landscape with precision and style."
Each team came together with its own unique approach to homebuilding.
West 82 student team members Ga-Jen Lin and Ashley Ranck covered their base with a fresh blanket of snow, while their secret weapons (marshmallow polar bears) waited to be placed in the landscape.
Acacia Nikoi, Karla Schneider and Ismail Elmandi, representing the Center for International Studies, constructed a global house with walls designed to highlight various countries. "Two walls will represent mud-cloth from Mali, and two will be in the Ndebele style from South Africa," Nikoi noted.
Students and staff from the Environmental Studies program also brought a personal perspective to the competition.
"We're planning an environmentally friendly and energy efficient house," said Loraine McCosker, Environmental Studies' outreach coordinator. Joining her were Ali Sinclair and Greg Seymour, students from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, and Cheryl Hanzel, Environmental Studies' program director. The house was complete with a rain barrel, compost pile, solar panels, trees and garden. "We took this opportunity to have fun and get the message out about energy-efficient, environmentally friendly housing," McCosker said.
By 4 p.m., all houses were lined up in the Maggie Davis room for judging. A crowd of contestants and onlookers scoped out the designs as judges Jones and Rapposelli pondered each entry carefully. (Sadly, some less-than-structurally sound entries lay in piles on the judging table.)
The top winners -- Best In Show, People's Choice, First Prize and Second Prize -- each received an office pizza party. Remaining contestants received a smaller pizza prize from the food court. Teams can pick up their entries and prize certificates Wednesday in the Maggie Davis Room.
If you would like to speak to a media contact about this story, contact Emily Howard, marketing manager for Auxiliary Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-593-4165.