Home Sweet Homes: Exploring area gingerbread houses
By: Suzanne Corbett
There has been a recent building boom across the bistate region, and it has resulted in a batch of freshly constructed, candy-encrusted gingerbread houses.
The Gingerbread House Contest and Gingerbread Village at Main Street Chapel, 116 N. Main St. in St. Charles, is the latest attraction of St. Charles’ annual Christmas Traditions Festival. According to Jeff Breneman, contest coordinator, the Gingerbread Village will feature almost 40 houses.
Contest entries were due earlier this month, and creations are on display until 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 22 during Christmas Traditions Festival hours at the Gingerbread Village at Main Street Chapel. For more information, visit stcharleschristmas.com.
Reflecting its strong German heritage, Belleville, Ill., embraces the tradition of gingerbread houses. Since 1990, the city’s annual Gingerbread House Contest and Gingerbread Walk have been Main Street traditions.
“In the past, we’ve had up to 80 gingerbread houses and creations (not all submissions are houses) entering the contest,” said Anne Davis, spokesperson for the events. “There’s $4,000 in prize money awarded in various categories that range from children’s divisions to professional bakers.”
After the contest is judged, the gingerbread creations are distributed for placement in business storefronts along both sides of Belleville’s Main Street. Items are displayed from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.
Die-hard gingerbread fans can sign up for Belleville’s Gingerbread Cookie Walk, which takes place on Saturday, Dec. 8. A $6 fee provides walkers with an official gingerbread cookie bag to fill with fresh-baked gingerbread cookies distributed at designated cookie stops along the gingerbread route. To ensure there will be enough cookies, pre-registration is requested. Visit illinois-trekkers.org, and click on “Cookie Walk.”
‘Home for the Holidays’
Those preferring strolling indoors might want to check out the entries in the Lydia’s House Gingerbread House Contest, on display during mall hours now through Sunday, Dec. 2 at Plaza Frontenac. The annual fundraising event is sponsored by L’Ecole Culinaire and benefits the nonprofit Lydia’s House, which provides transitional housing and support services to abused women and their children.
“This year’s theme, ‘Home for the Holidays,’ helps remind our community about those who don’t have a place to call home this holiday season,” said Lydia’s House Development Director Melissa Antey, noting that made by professional chefs, university and high school culinary students.
While the houses are on display, shoppers are invited to purchase them or participate in a raffle of the creations, with all proceeds benefiting Lydia’s House. More information is available at lydiashouse.org.
Dine-in gingerbread houses
Hansel and Gretel would have enjoyed nibbling on the life-sized gingerbread houses on display at Lumiére Place and River City Casino, each of which towers 14 feet tall and affords the unique opportunity to dine within its walls. Interested parties can reserve the table inside, which for a $20 donation can be set for four. Proceeds support the “Not So Silent Night” fundraiser for the Center for Hearing and Speech, an organization that provides hearing aids for children and seniors.
“It took over 500 pounds of gingerbread, 300 pounds of royal icing and 400 cookies to complete both houses,” said Executive Pastry Chef Stephen Schubert, whose architectural designs that adorn the houses reflect the gingerbread houses he knew as a child growing up in Germany. “We’ve even decorated the inside of the houses with little Christmas trees and lights. There’s nothing else like them anywhere. We’re thinking these could be the largest gingerbread houses in the country. Maybe they could be large enough to make the Guinness Book of World Records.”
Those dining in the houses can select a meal from a three-course, $25 fixed-price menu or order off the menu. Or, guests may simply reserve one of the houses, donate and enjoy a cup of coffee or holiday cheer inside. However, as a dinner extra, the chef provides a special treat for kids, giving them the opportunity to decorate individual gingerbread shingles. Reservations are being accepted now through Monday, Dec. 24. Call