Craig gingerbread house competition builds on 14 years of sweet success | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig gingerbread house competition builds on 14 years of sweet success

CRAIG — Move over pumpkin spice; it's gingerbread's turn, as Craig bakers begin building tiny houses for the annual gingerbread house competition.

For many years, Diane Calim has involved her grandchildren in the gingerbread house competition as a fun family activity that also teaches basic building skills.

The competition to build a house using only edible materials began 14 years ago as a way to add to the festive atmosphere in downtown Craig.

"I would like to see it last for another 14 years," said Diane Calim, who was the first winner of the adult class for a classic cabin, complete with pretzel-pole fence.

Diane Calim has devoted a wall in one of her rooms to books and supplies used to make her award-winning gingerbread houses.

The art of baking gingerbread is believed to be thousands of years old, and according to kit home supplier gingerbreadtraditions.com, German bakers are credited with creating the first gingerbread and candy houses, finding inspiration from by the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel," in which a witch lived in a candy cottage she used to lure children to their doom.

In Craig, the candy houses are also used as a lure — to attract people into the Museum of Northwest Colorado during December, when the houses are on display.

Prior to display, volunteers gather to award prizes for the best houses in professional, adult, youth, and family categories.

Builders are encouraged to use their imaginations when making gingerbread for competition. One year, a train made of gingerbread was entered.

From birdhouses to local buildings — such as the museum or city hall — there are few limits on the type of house bakers can make.

Calim now dedicates a shelving unit near her kitchen for books and gingerbread house making supplies. She's also recruited her entire family, encouraging her grandsons to participate.

"It's a way to teach some basic building skills," she said. "You go shopping in the cereal aisle with a builder’s mentality. Judges love little houses with details and big houses showing building skills."

Calim — who is currently at St. Mary's in Grand Junction receiving treatment for brain injuries sustained in a ranch accident days after being interviewed for this story — offered a few tips to encourage people to participate.

She said kits starting at $9 are an affordable way to get the basic building blocks for a house.

Books and the internet offer information about how to build a house made of gingerbread and candy.

"Basic kits can be used and turned into whimsical houses," Calim said.

She said that, while it's possible to put a house together over a few days, it's better to let the gingerbread dry for three or four days to allow it to harden, which enhances stability.

She said she once lost the blue ribbon when she didn't allow enough time for the gingerbread to harden, and her roof sank.

Calim is well-known by judges for the fences she builds around her houses. To build them, she said, "the Dremel tool is my friend. Drill holes into the pretzels (and) use karo syrup to help them stick to create a real post and rail fence."

To learn more about this year's competition, call Kandee Dilldine, with KS Kreations, at 970-824-2151.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

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Contest rules

• Entry fee is $6, which includes a 22-by-15-inch Masonite baseboard for the house, or $2 if using a base from a previous year. Baseboards are available at KS Creations.

• All houses are to be delivered to the Museum of Northwest Colorado between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 30 for same-day judging. They will be on display at the museum until Dec. 21.

• The entire display, excluding the base, must be made of edible materials. Styrofoam and other non-edible support materials are not permitted. Entries must be constructed mainly of gingerbread and icing; unwrapped candy and other edible material may also be used. Edible materials include candies, nuts, cereal, crackers, pasta, and any other food item that does not include a wrapper, stick, or other non-edible material.

• The houses must be picked up from the Museum of Northwest Colorado between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Dec. 21