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Gingerbread competition is bittersweet for one grandmother

By Sharon Edwards
Retired family and consumer science teacher at South Rowan

This year’s 24th National Gingerbread Competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville was bittersweet for this newly retired teacher. Instead of continuing the 10 years of mentoring middle school (Corriher Lipe) and then high school (South Rowan) students to compete in the competition, I mentored my two grandchildren.

Ryleigh, 6, and Stryker, 5, their aunt Candice and I headed with their snowman creation up the mountain for two wonderful days in late November, culminating in them bringing home the first place ribbon in their child division.

They got the gingerbread bug honestly. They’ve seen “Granna’s” students create remarkable entries during their lifetime and traveled to Asheville this past January to view last year’s creations.

Their theme originated from the idea of “Build A Bear.” Instead it was “Build a Snowman Workshop.”

With the help of YouTube videos, Ryleigh learned how to sculpt carrots and buttons out of fondant. Naturally artistic, unlike her Granna, she also had gingerbread candy boxes filled with hats, scarves, mittens and cinnamon sticks. Huge snowballs were easily made of Rice Krispie treats covered in icing.

Stryker, on the other hand, is an “outdoors man” and wanted to be outside with his also newly retired “Pop.” The warm and dry October and November after-school afternoons made it a challenge to keep him inside to work. Threatening every day to make the completion a girl’s only trip was his main motivation to sporadically help build, decorate and spread lots of royal icing.

Gingerbread was bittersweet this year. I did not miss the huge mess and the long hours in my classroom after school — the mess just moved to my kitchen and dining room.

Bitter, because I missed my wonderful, fun, creative teenagers at South Rowan. They went out with a bang last year creating five magnificent entries, with three of those winning ribbons in the Teen Division. Sweet, because the quality and fun time I got to spend with my grandchildren will be remembered forever!

I gave Ryleigh a little time after all that work to ask her if she wanted to do this again next year.

“Yes,” she said.

And I replied, ”We’ll see. You know Granna and Pop are expecting two new grandbabies next year!”

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