Nothing delights the senses quite like decorated gingerbread during the holidays: the inviting smell, the fanciful bursts of red, green and chocolate candies set off by white icing, the mouth-watering thoughts of the sugar rush you could enjoy, if only you could reach out and eat a piece without anyone noticing...
Not that anyone we know would really do that! (Wipes crumbs from mouth and continues typing).
But here at Socrates Academy, students and parents got the chance to stretch imaginations and satisfy sugar cravings by entering the inaugural Gingerbread Competition earlier this month. About 30 gingerbread creations of all sizes and shapes filled the display cases in the Middle School lobby, turning it into a colorful Winter Wonderland.
“You should have seen the Kindergarteners when they passed by,” said Janice Soucey, who organized the event with Catherine Parillo. “They would have their faces pressed to the glass and be excitedly pointing to one or the other. ‘I like that one,’ or ‘Oooh…look at that one!!!’ they would say. It was so great to see that.”
The competition was the brainchild of Ms. Parillo and executed with the help of some other elves, including Mrs. Soucey, Vanessa Morgan, Kathy Chao and members of the staff and administration who served as judges. Considering this was the first year for the competition and “sort of a last-minute idea,” Ms. Parillo said she was thrilled with the interest and support from so many Socrates families.
Ms. Parillo said she was inspired by her family’s visits to Gingerbread Lane at the Ballantyne Hotel and to the famed National Gingerbread House Competition in Asheville at Grove Park Inn. She thought the entries for the Socrates contest were wonderful. “I was really stunned,” Ms. Parillo said. “I thought it would just be a few entries. The judges had a difficult time choosing winners!”
The entries were spread across three categories: Adult, Tween and Child. Tweens were to have no adult help to execute their designs, and those in the child category could have minimal adult help but the design had to be their own handiwork. Ms. Soucey and Ms. Parillo said for the child category, they were specifically looking for houses that fit the spirit of the contest and were decorated independently by a child. Families who wanted to work together could enter the Adult category.
There were prizes for Most Decorative (judged by art teacher Karen Poimbeuf), Most Creative (judged by principal Sandra Brighton and assistant principal Shekeria S. Barnes), and Most Socrates Proud (judged by Greek teacher Maria Kotrotsios).
For the Socrates Proud category, Mrs. Soucey said they were hoping for “maybe with a Greek flag” or the Socrates Academy logo, but since they didn’t get entries like that, they decided to just make it “which ones make you proud that they came from a Socrates Academy student,” Mrs. Soucey said. “We just kind of winged it.” There was also a prize for Best in Show, awarded to the Galliano family, who also won in the Adult Most Decorative category for their “Stone Winter Cottage.” The cottage included slivered almonds as stone masonry, a sleigh made of profiteroles and fondant and a “pond” with Swedish fish candies under the water.
It was important to the organizers that everyone who entered, especially scholars, felt good about their creation. To that end, everyone got a Dress Down Day pass. Category winners also got prize packs with Socrates memorabilia and other small goodies. “As I was passing out the prize packs for the winners,” said Ms. Parillo, “I was also handing out the Dress Down passes and the little ones were so excited. ‘I won! I won!’ they shouted. They were so happy that someone recognized the effort they had put it.” The Best in Show prize included a $20 gift card donated by Ms. Chao for hot chocolate at the Ballantyne Hotel. Entries left after the 15th of December were donated to bring joy to staff, patients, and visitors at Novant Health Matthews Medical Center.
She said that in the future hopefully the competition could be more of an event. She and Mrs. Soucey said maybe there could be a viewing night for people to come see the houses while sipping hot chocolate and listening to music. “We’ll see if we can get word out a little earlier next year to get parents more involved. There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to bring people together.”