My wife and I went to the Gingerbread House Festival yesterday morning. I decided that it would be best to go early to beat the crowds, and I'm glad I did. It was relatively empty when we got there, but it quickly filled up with little kids accidentally running into my pregnant wife and almost knocking her over, and parents who didn't seem to care how recklessly their kids ran around.
Entering the show, we were greeted by a scoutmaster-looking fellow and a woman at a table, who took our tickets and gave us programs. When I first posted about the festival a few days ago, I had emailed one of the people in charge and asked about getting email notifications next year. He had told me that there would be a signup list at the door. As it turns out, the signup "list" was actually a form that I have to mail in somewhere.
The people at the table told us that there were activities all around, such as puzzles and places where you could build your own gingerbread house. Since we had come to look at already built-houses, we thanked them and moved on. Immediately behind them was the second-place winner: a gingerbread recreation of the Hogwart School from the Harry Potter books. It was magnificiently done. I began to think that perhaps my expectations of the Utah festival had been much too low. Then I saw the first place winner to the right of the second place one. It was wider than the other one, but not nearly as tall, nor nearly as realistic. It was a house, with poured sugar windows on two sides, and open windows on the other two sides so that you could see into the house. I would say there was a higher percentage of detail inside the house than outside. In fact, if they had included as much detail on the outside, I would probably not have been disappointed that it beat out Hogwarts.
The rest of the gingerbread houses were in a seperate area, so we went over to take a look at them. I was kicking myself the whole time for forgetting my regular camera, but fortunately I had my Clie with me, which has a camera built-in. Sadly, the camera on that has been on the fritz lately, and I only managed to photograph about 2/3 of the houses before it fuzzed out on me.
Apparently there were multiple categories, because I saw at least one more second-place ribbon at the "normal" gingerbread houses. There were some excellent ones there, and there were some that were obviously built from kits. In fact, I saw at least two different kits represented there multiple times each. Most of the houses looked like they had been built from scratch. A favorite of mine was a Halloween gingerbread house, made with Halloween candy. I was disappointed to see that at least two people decided to build BYU and U of U (University of Utah) houses next to each other. It's an old cliche in Utah. We saw gingerbread trains, we saw somewhat elaborate houses, and we even saw an igloo with penguins made out of store-bought chocolate-covered cookies. Unfortunately, my camera died two houses before that one or else I would post a picture of it.
As we walked through the festival, we got to listen to bad Christmas music, as I'm sure we will be doing for the next month and a half. It was easy enough to ignore, until somebody decided that they weren't happy with the volume level. In fact, they didn't seem happy with any particular volume level, because the last 10 - 15 minutes we were there, it was constantly being played with, almost as if some kid got into the sound equipment and decided it was a game.
When we first entered, a girl walked up to us and offered us chocolate-covered popcorn. Since it wasn't likely to be that icky artificial butter-flavored microwave crap, I tried one. It wasn't bad. There was also another girl walking around with caramel popcorn, but she seemed more interested in flirting with the boys that looked like they were supposed to be there, but didn't seem to have a purpose in doing so, other than flirting with the popcorn girls.
I complain a lot. Really, it was a good time. $3 for something like that isn't bad, and my only real disappointment was in forgetting my real camera. I'm glad I found out about the show, even if it was just in time. To the organizers: I'm not sure if you advertised, but if you did, it wasn't where I would have seen or heard about it. Next year you might want to work a few more angles, such as the food bloggers (like myself) in Utah, or perhaps some of the cooking/baking ground around, such as the Utah Bakers Dozen. This is what's known in the biz as "free advertising".
I'll be keeping an eye out for the show next year, and hopefully I'll be able to give you all a little more warning. I would love to see this show get as big as the one in North Carolina that always seems to have Food Network cameras at it lately. Even if it doesn't, it's still a fun show to go to.