Workshop teaches techniques and tips prior to popular contest
By Susan Nolan
Anita Guit of Owings had never made a gingerbread house, but in 2009, her sister told her about the gingerbread house show at Darnall’s Chance House Museum in Upper Marlboro. Guit and her 11-year-old daughter Hailey decided to go. One visit and they were hooked.
“We left thinking, ‘we can do that,’” says Guit. The following year, she and Hailey made, decorated, and entered gingerbread houses in the annual contest. Since then, Guit has become a perennial contestant, often placing among the winning entries. Hailey has continued to enter the contest as her schedule has allowed. “The timing didn’t always work when she was in college,” explains Guit.
Now, 12 years after entering her first gingerbread contest, Guit will be leading a workshop for novice gingerbread house makers on Octo. 15.
“Anita’s designs are fresh and interesting,” says Susan Reidy, director of Darnall’s Chance House Museum and coordinator of both the annual contest and the upcoming workshop. “She’s creative and always comes up with something fun.”
Last year, Guit’s entry was an ugly sweater factory complete with marshmallow-fleeced sheep waiting in line to be shorn and brightly colored sweaters for sale. She placed third.
According to Guit, the best designs are more than just a building–they tell a story. She looks for ideas on Pinterest and YouTube, but also believes personal history can be a source of inspiration. In 2017, she made a gingerbread model of her mother’s childhood home in Allegany County’s Mt. Savage. “My mom loved it,” she says. “And I used it on my Christmas card and sent one to the current owners who happen to be friends. They loved it, too.”
October may seem early to be thinking about gingerbread, but according to Reidy, those who participate in the contest are already planning ahead. “The contestants put a lot of time into creating their gingerbread houses,” she says. “And we want to encourage people who have never done this, to give it a try. Get started.”
The deadline for registering for the Darnall’s Chance Gingerbread House Contest is November 4 with completed entries being delivered to the museum on November 30. All entries will be on display from November 26 through December 11.
In the 90-minute workshop, Guit will share basic recipes and techniques to help participants avoid common rookie mistakes, such as not allowing adequate time for the gingerbread to harden. “All the candy can be heavy, and fondant is even heavier,” she states, “You really need for the gingerbread to be baked properly, cooled and dried before you try to put it together.”
Guit also encourages gingerbread builders to find a place where their work will not be disturbed by people or pets while it is under construction. “You will be working on it for days,” she explains, “and so it’s unrealistic to leave it sitting on your kitchen counter.”
Even with all the work that goes into creating a masterpiece, Guit emphasizes the fun. “I don’t do it to win, and I don’t win every year,” she says, “I do it because I enjoy it.”
For more information, visit www.pgparks.com/3055/Darnalls-Chance-House-Museum