Cooked up a decade ago to sweeten fundraising for the Craterian Theater, the annual GingerBread Jubilee has surpassed its status as a local, holiday tradition. It now attracts contestants and crowds from counties away.
"People really seem to have it on their radar as a regional draw," says Maureen Esser, development and communications manager for the Craterian in downtown Medford.
What: GingerBread Jubilee community tour
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday, Nov. 17-20, and Friday and Saturday, Nov. 23 and 24; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21
Where: Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford
Cost: $3 per person
For more information: Call 541-779-3000 or see www.craterian.org/gingerbread-jubilee
Creations crafted from cookies, candies and any edibles that bakers can employ have raised about $650,000 for Craterian Performances and earned winning bakers more than $30,000 over the past nine years. This year's competition, auction and community tour — the theater's 10th — promises nearly 50 entries from a cadre of experienced and new bakers, says baker coordinator Mary Patridge. Although it's seen plenty of repeat winners over the years, she says, the Jubilee is a wide-open field this year.
"I think every year, there are things that totally blow us away," says event committee member Bonnie Hall. "It will be fresh every year."
Key to the Jubilee's inception in 2003, Hall says she and other organizers wanted to set a high standard for competition from the get-go. With cash prizes as an incentive, not a few professional bakers, chefs and caterers signed on the first year.
"They really set the tone," says Hall.
It didn't take much nudging from Jubilee organizers to steer bakers toward Jackson County's historical buildings. Jacksonville's Nunan House and McCully House, Eagle Point's Wood House, Central Point's Beall House, Ashland's Elizabethan Stage and McCall House bed-and-breakfast and the Craterian, itself, all among entries in the first few years.
"In their mind, they thought gingerbread house — structure," says Esser. "They weren't thinking winter scenes.
"Now, people are thinking, 'What can I create?'"
More recent winners have been inspired by fairy tales, nursery rhymes, Bible stories, children's books and films, international architecture and monuments and — always — the sights, sounds, scents and characters of the season. This year is no different, with entry titles that range from "The Hobbit" to "Chew! Chew! Here Comes You-Know-Who!" from gingerbread as a carnival to gingerbread on "glimmering ice."
"It's so sensory," says Esser. "Even though you can't touch it, you can smell it."
More than 22,000 people have attended the Jubilee's community tour over the past nine years, says Esser, with last year the first that the theater displayed entries for an entire week.
The Jubilee's 10th-anniversary theme is "Sugar, Spice and Everything Iced." In a reference to commemorating a decade of marriage with diamonds, the Jubilee has a $100 gift card for Facets Jewelry Studio in downtown Medford for the "best use of theme."
Cash prizes are awarded for "best of show" and to the top three entries in adult, student and mixed-age group categories. Gingerbread pieces, along with other collectibles and numerous travel, dining and entertainment packages, will be auctioned off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, on the Craterian stage. Tickets to the gala, which starts at 5:30 p.m., are $100 and include food and wine. Call 541-779-3000 for reservations.
Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.