The veritable kingdom of candy castles and constructions has grown far beyond its original size and purpose, which was simply to encourage people to visit the gardens in winter.
“It started with about eight entries and 100 visitors,” relates Lesley Parness, superintendent of horticultural education for the Morris County Park Commission.
“This is one of my favorite events," she adds, "because visitors are in awe of the creativity, artistry and passion displayed in each edible work of art."
Area school children and scout groups submit many of the creations, but individual artists and entire families also get in on the fun.
"Quite a few are extraordinary and done at a very high level," Parness says. "This year we have someone who made a beautiful basilica. Three years in a row we had a family do the Jersey Shore. They did it post Sandy, the year of Sandy, and now they are doing it in this year of rebuilding.”
Entries have included Santa’s workshop, Hanukah menorahs, Chinese pagodas, a grand piano and even the White House.
“You really get to see what’s on people’s minds,” Parness says. "You’ll see movies, endangered birds, vacation spots, and of course holidays. You’ll see Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali and Kwanzaa. It’s really a melting pot of gingerbread.”
Each entry bears the artist’s name, town, inspiration and the number of hours it took to complete. Although Gingerbread Wonderland is not a competition, visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorites in a number of categories. Every entrant receives a red ribbon. Those presenting environmental themes also get a green ribbon. Winners of the People’s Choice Awards get a surprise prize from United Parcel Service, sponsor of the event.
On weekends, the $2 admission fee also grants entry to a holiday craft show featuring 30 vendors selling handmade gifts.
“It’s a wonderful community tradition,” Parness says.
And a sweet one. Gingerbread Wonderland runs through December 14th.
353 East Hanover Avenue
10 am – 4:30 pm
Fridays until 7:30 pm
Holiday Craft Show
December 6-7, 13-14,
10 am – 4:30 pm
SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at suzannelowery.com.Click here to leave a comment