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GingerBread Jubilee returns with virtual viewing and auction, plus window displays

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GingerBread Jubilee organizer Aspen Droesch almost feels like she’s “planning a completely new event” — in its 19th year.

The flagship fundraiser for Medford’s Craterian Performances, in fact, brings brand-new opportunity for the general public to participate in a free gala auction, which typically hosts only about 200 select ticketholders. The virtual event, planned for Nov. 19, is the Craterian’s response to continued pandemic precautions but also represents a reenergized Jubilee, restructured last year just weeks before the gala, which ultimately was canceled.

“The focus is on being together while we’re apart,” says Droesch, the Craterian’s development director. “We’re hoping that more people can access it than ever would.”

Audiences can stream the virtual gala and auction, beginning at 7 p.m., for “live commentary and color” that cuts away to prerecorded performances by Teen Musical Theater of Oregon, “cameos” from nationally and internationally known performing artists familiar with the Craterian and a “sizzle reel” previewing the upcoming season, which kicks off in December.

“It’s very fun and humorous and lighthearted,” says Droesch. “We really wanted to take a very optimistic, forward-thinking approach.”

Sharing organizers’ optimism are the region’s longtime baking contestants. The Jubilee boasts about the same number of entries — 40 to 50 — as it has for much of its history, says Droesch, despite their display behind windows at downtown Medford’s Collier Creative Center for a second year. The public is invited to view the community window display Nov. 19-23 at 50 N. Fir St.

The new location also prompted 2020’s free virtual tour, which continues this year Nov. 19-23. View it on demand at craterian.org/support-us/gingerbread-jubilee/community-window-display/

“We got a lot of great feedback from people far and wide,” says Droesch of last year’s virtual community tour.

The entirely edible sculptures — elaborately rendered in gingerbread, royal icing and other sweets and treats — remain a key piece of the gala auction, which will offer the top five entries for bidding, says Droesch. Other auction items include travel accommodations, private parties and theater tickets.

Open to anyone with advance, no-cost registration, the online auction continues through Nov. 22, with donations up to $100,000 matched dollar for dollar by philanthropist James Morrison Collier, for whom the Jubilee is named. See craterian.org/support-us/gingerbread-jubilee/online-auction-info/

“Watch parties” are encouraged for the virtual gala, for which a number of participants from previous years have said they’re hosting festive, private gatherings, says Droesch. Tune in at craterian.org/support-us/gingerbread-jubilee/virtual-gala/

Live streaming the auction gives the Jubilee a good shot at restoring fundraising figures to pre-pandemic levels. A figure slightly reduced from previous years, $223,000 raised in 2020 surpassed expectations for a virtual event, says Droesch, and pushed the Jubilee total over $2.4 million generated since its 2003 inception.

Looking ahead to next year’s 20th Jubilee, Droesch and her colleagues plan to carry forward many of the technological advances that have made the past two events possible. Combining innovations with “classic” elements, says Droesch, will create a Jubilee as big as it’s ever been — or bigger. The anniversary coincides with Craterian Performances’ 25th year, she adds.

“I think we’ll all be excited to turn the page.”

Live theater’s hardships during the pandemic, however, have only given the artists and professionals behind it more impetus to adapt and the tools to weather future challenges, says Droesch.

“We’ve all become filmmakers and editors,” she jokes of virtual Craterian shows.

“I think it makes you more grateful for everything we do when you see it could so easily be taken away.”