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A gingerbread rendition of the The Silas Bingham House is displayed at the Southeast Ohio Historic Center for The Southeast Ohio Gingerbread House Display and Competition. The house was created by Nancy Mingus and Jennifer Dillie and won the grand prize in the professional category.

Gingerbread house competition displays creations of southeast Ohio landmarks

Nancy Mingus and her daughter look forward to the festive competition every holiday season.

This is Mingus and her daughter’s fifth year entering the Southeast Ohio History Center’s Gingerbread House Display and Competition. In the professional category, they have won the grand prize of $500 every year except one.

“We just really enjoy it,” Mingus said. “It’s a good project for us to do because we work really well together.”

The SEO History Center took a year off from hosting the gingerbread house display and competition but started it back up this year in full swing. Participants can compete in one of three categories: a children’s group, nonprofessional groups and professional groups with the chance to win $500. They are tasked with creating a replica of a SEO building, landmark or historical site. All gingerbread house entries will be up for display at the SEO History Center until Saturday, Dec. 22.

Mingus and her daughter created a replica of the Silas Bingham House, one of the few two-story log buildings still in the area.

“We made it look more like it did originally because there’s so many new parts now and we didn’t like that,” Mingus said.

The two use Mingus’ own 45-year-old gingerbread recipe to hand mold all of the logs and figurines that went along with the cabin. Mingus made skunks, rabbits, a horse and people to tie the gingerbread house altogether in a Christmas-like scene, while her daughter worked more on the structure and measurements of the actual house.

“My daughter was really good at cutting the logs and the pieces as well as coming up with ideas to add to the house,” Mingus said. “She said she did all the brain work.”

Mingus and her daughter put in about 100 hours of detail and work into their gingerbread house.

“I like to make the whole scene because it looks so plain if you don’t,” Mingus said. “There’s also a man is dragging a sleigh with the Christmas tree on it, as well as a big tree out front.”

Out of all their creations, Mingus’ favorite has been their replica of the Athens County Dog Shelter from two years ago.

“That was our favorite, but we didn’t win with it like all the others,” Mingus said. “I wish I was better because I feel like my stuff is pretty primitive, but it takes a lot of practice to mold really well.”

Barbara Miller, a member of the Athens County Knitters, has seen Mingus’ work and finds it incredible every year she enters.

“Nancy Mingus always does the most perfect work. There’s always something she does that makes her gingerbread houses the best,” Miller said.

Like Mingus, Miller is also no stranger to the gingerbread house competition. Every year Miller has competed, she’s been able to suck her friends and family into helping make a gingerbread house, and this year it was a group effort provided by all of the Athens County Knitters.

Miller and her fellow knitters won the nonprofessional category with their replica of one of the quilt barns, a part of the Quilt Barn Tour in Athens County.

“We made nine quilts a part of the tour that set up against our replica of one of the barns on route 13,” Miller said. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of hours. There was probably 30 to 40 hours put into just two weeks.”

Miller didn’t expect their gingerbread house to win, but it was a nice surprise. Miller has four other ideas she’s already wanting to start and is looking forward to making in the years to come.

“There’s a challenge to it all. To do the best you can, to take a little lump of something and make it look like something,” Miller said. “It just kind of happens, and as long as it can be done I’ll do it.”

Caylah Awls, a sophomore studying nutrition and pre-med, would consider putting a group of people together to participate in this festive competition next year.

“I think it could be a fun activity to do to bond with friends and get everyone in the holiday spirit,” Awls said. “They’re a blast to make, and even if the end result is not the prettiest, you’re still having fun, which is the most important part.”


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