Before you get to the gingerbread house contest at Wilton Library, you know it’s there. The sweet smells of molasses, ginger, and other warming spices gently waft through the air.
Thirty-one colorful candy-covered houses, made by adults and children, line the shelves of the library for the “How Sweet It Is in Wilton” contest sponsored by the library and the Wilton Chamber of Commerce.
But that isn’t the only gingerbread contest in Wilton this year. Teen bakers at Wilton High School rolled up their sleeves recently for the annual gingerbread house contest for students in German classes 1 and 2.
The gingerbread houses in the library, which include some from the German class competition, will be on display through Jan. 2.
“This is one of those ‘build it and they will come’ moments,” said Melissa Baker, media and digital services librarian for Wilton Library who came up with the idea for the townwide contest after reading about a similar contest in Boston.
“I loved the idea of recreating the town of Wilton in candy,” she said. “We threw this challenge out to the community and people responded with creativity, whimsy and talent,” she said.
The theme of the contest was to create a home, building, or place in Wilton out of gingerbread.
There were 31 entries, in two age groups — 13 to adult, and 12 and under. Three community leaders will judge the competition in three categories: Best historical Wilton house, best creative Wilton building and best whimsical design.
In addition, members of the public can vote for a community favorite house at the library. Voting runs until Tuesday, Dec. 18 at noon and the prizes will be awarded Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 4 p.m.
Gift certificates from the Wilton Chamber of Commerce will be awarded in each category, including the community pick.
The contest yielded a number of familiar Wiltoncentric creations. There are edible models of the Ambler Farm barn, Merwin Meadows, Wilton Library, Hulbutt Street Schoolhouse, Our Lady of Fatima School and Church, Wilton Gazebo, Minks to Sinks, and even the Bubble & Brew truck.
A number of creations included fine detail in their decoration.
The gingerbread version of the Schoolhouse Restaurant bears an uncanny resemblance to the actual building, complete with clapboard siding made from royal icing, and the building’s trademark steeple, awning, and red door.
A replica of Old Town Hall features whimsical members of the garden club made from gingerbread cookies and gumdrops.
A large-scale model of the railroad station sports tracks made from licorice and gingerbread commuters happily milling about.
A model of the old Schlichting House, which has since been torn down, features delicate scroll work in royal icing, and “stained glass” windows made from candy.
A number of houses included festive items such as blue “candy” water, happy marshmallow/fondant snowmen, and decked-out evergreens.
“We partnered with the Wilton Chamber of Commerce because this contest is all about Wilton. But the unexpected delight is seeing the smiles on admirers’ faces as they recognize all the submissions,” said Elaine Tai-Lauria, executive director of the library.
Debra Hanson, executive director of the Chamber, said, “We are always excited to work with the library and we agreed to support this great idea when Melissa and Elaine presented it to us. We felt it was a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season and a fun reason for people to visit Wilton.”
Each year, students in German classes at Wilton High School take part in their own gingerbread house contest as part of the unit on house and home. Students learn about the origins of German gingerbread and how it is featured by the Grimm Brothers in the Hansel & Gretel fairy tale.
This year, German teacher Christine Higgins decided to up the ante by tying the class contest in with the town’s competition. Students were asked to design a Wilton location out of gingerbread, and also had to describe the history of the place or the day-to-day activity of the place in German.
A number of student groups submitted their entries to the town’s competition.
On Dec. 6, a school-wide vote was held and a replica of Wilton Town Hall was the winner, created by students Victoria DiRocco, Kirsten Finnecy, Claire Kedzierski, and Keri O’Neill.