Blame the Stewart family’s candy creation at the 19th Annual Gingerbread Extravaganza on a TV show the whole family watches, says her 10-year-old daughter Magnolia.
Specifically, blame the “LEGO Masters” of the Fox Network, where teams build towering and intricate sculptures from interlocking plastic blocks.
This is where her Westside family came up with the idea to design and build the baked and sweet version of the TV show’s set for the event which runs through December 22, she said.
“We watch it every week, so we thought it would be fun to build it, so we built a lot of LEGOs,” she said. “… It took a day, a whole day, a Saturday. We basically binge Hallmark! “
Across the arched Gothic nave of the 133-year-old Jacksonville Historical Society‘s old St. Andrews Church at 317 A. Philip Randolph Blvd., Leslie Case’s “Santa’s Sugar Village” was tucked in the middle. of cotton snowdrifts with six gingerbread houses around a Christmas tree sugar cone. Paving miniature paths in Frosted Mini Wheats, the St. Augustine woman said she built the village after a company official suggested it.
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“My husband and I came over to our house and we were like, ‘Why don’t we try it on?’” She said of the design. “We started with a house, then I said it was too little and we had to have more. So we bought a village and made each one different. “
The Gingerbread Extravaganza was originally founded by the Rotary Club of South Jacksonville in 2003 as a fundraiser for the benefit of other nonprofit organizations, including the Historical Society. The company began hosting it in 2010 with ticket sales and donations to benefit its educational programs and archival repository.
This year, 42 participants built creations ranging from towering Victorian mansions with detailed candy interiors to the “Santa’s Holiday Inn” motel featuring a spun sugar pool. Their creators range from professional bakeries to students and home chefs.
Carefully transported to the church opposite the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena over the past two weeks, they were put on trial in a first Thursday.
“After a strange year since we last did it, Jacksonville needs gingerbread as much, if not more than ever,” said Historical Society CEO Alan Bliss. “… We’re excited to have 22 newcomers, and we have a builder that’s been a returning veteran for 14 years, so that kind of sets the timeline.”
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Best in Show stands at the entrance to the event, a three-story “Santa Gingerbread Dollhouse” by Teresa Thompson. Spun sugar was used to create its windows and fireplace smoke, while frosting-accented balconies and windows open to detailed interiors on all sides.
The students at Bishop Snyder High School had St. Nick and a few animals on the bridge in their “Christmas on the Ark,” a polar bear and Rudolph hanging from the windows.
Nearby, Lynette Bracey’s “12 Days of Christmas” drew a lot of glances, with 10 gingerbread lords jumping over her icing-covered roof. Elsewhere, six geese were laying eggs alongside eight milking maids, like the rest of the holiday song, all made of candy, frosting, cookies and gingerbread.
“I started it in July and did it on my own,” said Bracey, who is a nurse. “I did it because I watched all these shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ and I was in love with it, and I wanted to make a castle. But I put a friendly touch on it.”
Bracey’s intricate design, complete with a castle and four other gingerbread houses, caught the eye of 7-year-old Violet Harding and her cell phone camera.
The little girl and her family from Orange Park had their own “Winter Wonderland Dreamhouse” creation nearby, with everything she could want in a house made of frosting, peppermint and gingerbread.
“Me and mom made our dream home somewhere very close so it’s still snowing,” said Violet. “We wanted to live very close to a Christmas farm, so when it’s Christmas we can just walk around and spend Christmas.”
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“Our dream house has to have a fish pond, a treehouse, and it has to be a place where we have a white Christmas,” said her mother, Staci Harding. “We did it all at once. We added a little bit after that.”
The wooden Gothic sanctuary is decorated with holiday trees made by the Junior League of Jacksonville, one in the nave dedicated to nurses, medics and other first responders.
The exhibition is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday to Friday for the elderly and those whose health is compromised; general admission is 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on these days. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The event is closed on Mondays and December 19.
Masks are mandatory, temperatures will be taken at the door and the exhibit is designed for one-way traffic, with green arrows on the ground. Tickets include a visit to the Merrill House Museum next door. Tickets are $ 10 for adults, $ 7 for military and seniors, and $ 5 for children ages 4 to 12, available with more information at jaxhistory.org/gingerbread-extravaganza.
[email protected]: (904) 359-4549
Winners of the 19th edition of the Gingerbread Extravaganza:
Best of Show: “Santa’s Gingerbread Dollhouse” by Teresa Thompson
Best traditional: Lynette Bracey’s “12 Days of Christmas”
1st traditional runner-up: “The Magic of Christmas” by Lisa Crosby & Margaret Warren, Asa & Otto Haines
2nd traditional dolphin: “Home Sweet Home” by Ginni Holder
Best Fantasy: “Baby’s First Christmas on Cody’s Christmas Van” by Team Cody
Fantasy Finalist: “Silent Night: Remembering the Lord God Bird” by Cashore & Flowers
Finalist Fantasy 2: “Let the Games Begin” by Lisa Wright, Linda Ellis, Nancy Balch and Becky Hilbert
Best religious: “Christmas on the Ark” by Bishop Snyder High School
1st religious dauphine: “Chroniques de Samson” by Evie Bolduc, Zion Bourgeois, Mia Todd, Abbi Squires, Shanti Earls (Keys Educational Resource Center)
Best historical structure: “Jacksonville Beach St. Paul Catholic Church” by the O’Donovan family
1st historic dolphin: “Fishweir Elementary School of the Arts” by Stefanie, David, Jonas & Julian Walter
2nd historic dolphin: “Laura Street Trio” by Episcopal School of Jacksonville – St. Mark’s
Best village: “Artist Avenue” by The Laughlins
1st dolphin village: “Santa Claus Village Sugar Bowl” by Kip & Leslie Case
2nd runner-up village: “Santa’s Holiday Inn” by Dave and Tracy Duncan