The GingerBread Jubilee is underway at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater. The popular event includes the gingerbread baking/design contest and benefit auction and community tour. Judging and awards ceremony took place on Wednesday, Nov. 19.

The GingerBread Jubilee is underway at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater. The popular event includes the gingerbread baking/design contest and benefit auction and community tour. Judging and awards ceremony took place on Wednesday, Nov. 19.

The tour returns will be held from 10 am to 4 p.m. Saturday through Wednesday, Nov. 22-26, during which the public is welcome to view the gingerbread creations on display at the theater.

Last year over 2,500 people viewed the gingerbreads. The contest was open to all interested bakers — individuals and groups, students, businesses, youth organizations, scout troops — anyone who loves the challenge of using all-edible ingredients to create architectural wonders. Bakers competed for over $3,500 in prizes, including a $1,000 Best of Show award. In addition to the competition categories, bakers could also enter in a (non-judged) Exhibition category.

The first GingerBread Jubilee took place in 2003. "For the first year of a new concept it was very successful," said Maureen Esser, Craterian development and communications manager, "and it has grown ever since."

Over the years, Esser pointed out, there have been more baker entries, more volunteers, more auction items and more attendees on the tour. And the level of craftsmanship has increased.

That has translated into more money raised. And it has provided a creative, wholesome holiday activity for all generations — kids to grandparents. "It seems to have touched this community in a way that has brought out the creative in people as well as people who appreciate gingerbread art and architecture," Esser said.

"It's become more of a tradition in our community," said Cindy Braden who has been working on the jubilee for six years. She has been a co-chair for the fast four years. "People look forward to it. It really kicks off the season downtown."

To help participants master the art and craft of gingerbread design and construction, event organizers held classes. Would-be bakers were taught basic recipes, ways to save time and be more successful in their design, structure, and construction efforts. "When they go home," Braden said, "they can make a house."

Categories for design event entries were: Adult/Adults (over age 18), Student/Students (age 18 and under

with no adult help), Group (mixed ages: adult and student), and Exhibition. Qualifying entrees in Student, Adult and Group categories will be judged for 1st ($500), 2nd ($250), and 3rd ($100) place cash prizes in each category.

Judging was based on accumulated point values in the areas of appearance, originality, difficulty and precision. A committee person selected the judges and included architects, builders, people in the culinary business and people in the legal profession to study whether people are really following the rules.

The Best in Show $1,000 prize winner was selected separately by judges as an overall winner. Esser pointed out that people really enjoy voting for the People's Choice Award. "This year we had three Girl Scout troops with the whole troop involved," Braden said. "We definitely have some awesome male bakers too."

The auction will be held on Friday, Nov. 21, during which the gingerbread art and architecture will be sold, along with gourmet dinners, gifts, getaways and collectibles in silent and live auction bidding. Admission is $3 per person. All proceeds from the GingerBread Jubilee benefit the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater.

This is the theater's big annual event as opposed to annual membership and sponsorship campaigns. "We have to raise more than $300,000 in addition to ticket sales and rental revenue to keep the facility running year-round," Esser said. Last year's GingerBread Jubilee generated a profit of over $80,000 for the theater.

"We couldn't do it without the thousands of volunteers and people who come to the events," Esser notes. "The generosity continues even after the auction. Many of the buyers will place their houses in places in the community where they can continue to bring joy to people."