Gingerbread Competition Spices Up

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First-timers to the Uptown for the Holidays Gingerbread competition are probably nervous enough about finishing one structure, but after a recent tragedy in Athens, Sarah Boumphrey decided to go big or go home.

Not only will she be building her workplace, Cutler Hall, but Boumphrey has been working furiously on a second gingerbread piece, a 3-foot-long tribute to the businesses that were damaged in last week's Union Street fire.

Boumphrey contacted Jan Hodson, co-founder of the competition, to see if she could do an additional creation, not as part of the competition but just for display.

"I wanted to pay tribute to the businesses," Boumphrey said, adding that the project is set to include every building from Jackie O's Public House to Uptown Dog.

She is an alumna of Ohio University and now works in the Office of the President, so she is happy to see the community come together to help out Union Street and keep it alive. She thought a tribute could help her do her part.

"Athens changes a lot but it always manages to maintain it's spirit," Boumphrey said.

She used pictures she found online and took her own pictures after the fire to figure out the dimensions of the buildings. The building of Cutler Hall still continues, but Boumphrey has spent the better part of the week focusing on Union Street.

"It's something I really don't want to get wrong," Boumphrey said. "There's going to be a lot of finger-crossing until this is finally on display."

She has the signs for Jack Neal Floral, The Union and Uptown Dog done, and plans to make Jackie O's three-dimensional sign stick out from the gingerbread building just like it does on the street.

Despite the double challenge she has put in place for herself, Boumphrey said the projects have been fun for her and a way for her to bring a little spirit to her life.

"Sometimes I have a hard time getting in the holiday spirit, and this has certainly helped," she said.

Boumphrey is one of 20 participants in the competition, which is an increase from the 14 competitors that competed last year, Hodson said.

When Janice Huwe started thinking of ideas for her holiday gingerbread house, she realized the best place to start was at home.

Soon, she decided her own historic home was the best place to build.

Huwe and her teenage daughters are building the home on Elmwood Place as part of the gingerbread competition.

It's taken a bit more time than Huwe expected, mainly in the planning stages, but she said it's been a good experience to do with her daughters.

"We spent a lot of time measuring the house to scale and making a model before we started baking and thinking about decorations," Huwe said.

Studying the house for a gingerbread model has made Huwe look at her house a little more intricately, she said.

"I even noticed we have a second chimney I had never seen before," Huwe said. "It doesn't go to anything so we're just going to leave it out (of the gingerbread version), but I never noticed it."

After starting work on the house, one of her daughters decided to enter the teen competition as well, but she decided to do something other than a historical building or a local attraction. Allie, 15, went with Hagrid's Hut from Harry Potter.

"I really like Harry Potter and I wanted to try it," Allie said. "It's challenging but it's been fun."

Two $500 grand prizes will be awarded after the gingerbread houses are turned in Dec. 1. One will be for best replica of an Athens city or county historical building or landmark done by a non-professional, and the other will be awarded to a professional in the same category.

Five $200 prizes will be given out, one each for children ages 9 to 12, teens, adults, groups and professionals.

Entries will be displayed at the Athens County Historical Society and Museum from Dec. 2 to Dec. 6 and in uptown businesses until Jan. 3.