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GingerBread Jubilee 2020 is a window into the holidays

A late start and last-minute changes to the GingerBread Jubilee couldn’t sour Natalie Gladbach’s family on the beloved annual event. Theirs was a sweet reward: Best in Show and $1,000.

“We really pour our heart and soul into it,” says Gladbach, who participates in the Jubilee’s mixed-age group category with her mother, husband and three kids. “We were burnin’ the midnight oil!”

Gladbach credits her mother for much of the group entry’s appeal, which has given the Grants Pass family an edge on the competition for two years running. Connie Walser Derek was a professional sculptor of figurines and porcelain dolls during Gladbach’s youth, spent traveling the world doing doll shows and sales.

In retirement, Derek brings her expertise to the medium of modeling chocolate for the Jubilee’s entirely edible format. Figures in this year’s winning “White as Snow” are faithful replicas of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from the classic Walt Disney animated film. Last year’s Best in Show rendered literature’s Hundred Acre Wood in cookies, candy and confections with Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and friends fashioned in painstaking detail.

“The figures are pretty expressive,” says Gladbach. “We’re trying to make things perfect with food.”

The region’s best bakers have staked their skills and creativity on 18 years of Jubilees, only to see this year’s community tour canceled amid the latest statewide measures to stop the coronavirus’ spread. A new downtown Medford location had ensured socially distanced viewing of gingerbread artworks from an outdoor vantage. Late last week, however, that free event shifted to an online streaming tour, available beginning today on the Jubilee’s Facebook page, facebook.com/GingerBreadJubilee

“It was a difficult decision, but the safety of our community is paramount,” says Aspen Droesch, development director for Craterian Performances.

For a community still hungry for spectacles, the gingerbread pieces will be visible through large windows at the Collier Creative Center, 50 N. Fir St., formerly a Scan Design showroom. The display will remain through Nov. 29, and the public can choose to peruse more than 40 examples of entirely edible architecture, auctioned beginning today to benefit Craterian Performances.

The Craterian’s flagship fundraiser, the Jubilee should be closing in this year on $2 million raised since its inception. Despite dropping the curtain on its 2020 auction gala, the Craterian is encouraging more community participation than ever. There is no cost to register for the online auction, which is open to anyone’s bid. The public also can vote virtually for their favorite gingerbread creations and donate to the Craterian, a nonprofit organization.

Festive themes, fairy tales, cartoon characters and local landmarks inspire the winning entries on this year’s Jubilee auction block. “Fairy Merry Christmas,” by Anne Rager, won first place in the adult category and $500. Former Best in Show winners Kate Sharbono and Rebecca DiCero placed second and third, respectively, in the adult category for “The Wood House” and “Cliff House.” Sharbono took home $250, DiCero $100.

“Nutcracker Prince,” by Dave Gray and family, claimed first place in the mixed age group category and $500. “Panther’s Pride” awarded second place in the group category and $250 to Joe, Ester and Anna Arthur; Grace and Sasha Weymouth; and Tatem and Mya Beach. The category’s third place showing and $100 went to Colleen Venables, Lauren Torrey and Paul Seus for “Mickey Mouse House.”

“A Fairy Tale Knight,” by Allie Rist, topped the student category and won $500. Amelia Gladbach’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” won second place among students and $250. “When the Farmer’s Away, the Mice Will Play,” by Raena Crisp, took home third place in the student category and $100.

See craterian.org for more information and links to online events.

A close-up view of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” by Amelia Gladbach, which placed second in the student category.
Kate Sharbono placed second in the adult category for “The Wood House.” Courtesy photos