Volume 18 • Issue 31 | December 16 - 22, 2005

Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

Max Buttner enjoys his gingerbread house at the Church Street School for Music & Art

Adding tasty decorations to house of ginger

By Frank Farina

The scene was filled with houses of gingerbread, tubs of marshmallow frosting and enough candy to keep one wired for days.  Raging sweet-tooths wouldn’t hesitate to call it paradise, but volunteers at the 16th Annual Gingerbread House Decorating Workshops, call it a very successful holiday fundraiser.

The workshops, which started earlier this month at the Church Street School for Music and Art, will end this weekend. For $85, families make their own gingerbread house out of homemade gingerbread cookies made in Pennsylvania. The proceeds go to the Church Street School for Music & Art, a children’s school in Tribeca.

With carols streaming out of a radio, the families who participated were all smiling as they entered the school, fully prepared to assume their roles as confectionary construction workers for the afternoon. Kids and their parents can garnish their houses any way they wish, utilizing anything from candy penguins to gumdrops.

Joe Townsend, a Tribeca resident, was one of the many attendees, and his “five and three-quarter” year-old daughter Ginger was very eager to get started on her house. “My wife came last year with Ginger, and they both enjoyed it, so this year it was my turn,” said Townsend. “She was really excited to get this one home to compare it to the one she made last year,” he added.

The techniques used by Ginger were certainly that of a seasoned veteran. She slathered the marshmallow on the house’s roof with a graceful stroke, then paid close attention to the placement of each piece of candy. It became clear early on that she had plans to one-up last year’s effort.

“It’s just a wonderful event, both parents and children always get something great out of it, and it’s for a great cause” Kleiman said of the fun-for-all-ages experience. All of the money raised goes directly to the funding of various programs at the school. 

Mahlon Sorensen and father Erik assess their progress.

“I love this school for the way it bonds the neighborhood, I just wanted to help in any way I could,” said volunteer Danny Pelavin, who both made the icing and designed the event’s promotional poster.  “It’s all for the kids,” he added.

The houses, baked by Lori Bailey in York, Pennsylvania, go from plain brown to full-on radiant in a matter of minutes, thanks in large part to the enthusiastic children in attendance. Complete with messy hands and faces, the children hovered over their creations, observing them as soon-to-be masterpieces.  “Mine has 18 chimneys,” 7-year-old Julian Goddy boasted.  Five minutes later, his count had risen to 25.

Max Buettner, 6, who shared a workspace with Goddy, his friend, had come to the right place; at the very top of his holiday wish list this season was, coincidentally, none other than a self-decorated gingerbread house. Goddy, Buettner, and three of their buddies all made the trip from Brooklyn to participate, just as they did last year. “Oh yes, we get a lot of repeat customers,” noted volunteer Chris Frederick. “And if they aren’t returning to decorate, they come back for a job as an elf.”
The volunteer elves keep very busy throughout the workshop, refilling candy plates, and also offering some helpful advice to other kids, all while donning marshmallow soaked clothes. “It’s very popular to be an elf, they are very coveted positions,” Frederick added.

In addition to the family workshops, an event for adults is also being offered, and will be held for the first time at The Bubble Lounge in Tribeca this weekend.  The Church Street School’s faculty will take to the stage to perform a set of live music and champagne and snacks will be served to the young-at-heart adults who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

The holiday spirit was certainly in the air at the workshops over the past two weekends, and still will be as the fundraiser wraps up on Sunday.  There is only one rule to follow when taking part in the decorating process according to Daryl Kleiman.  “For every candy that goes on the house, one must go in the mouth.”


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