Paying homage to a local landmark has once again paid off for gingerbread baker Kate Sharbono.
Sharbono’s entirely edible rendition of Ashland’s Allen Elizabethan Theatre took center stage at this year’s GingerBread Jubilee. It’s the third consecutive year that Sharbono, of Eagle Point, has claimed the Jubilee’s Best in Show title and $1,000 grand prize. In 2016, Sharbono wowed judges by reconstructing — in gingerbread — her hometown’s beloved Butte Creek Mill, which burned on Christmas 2015.
“I struggle all year, thinking, ‘What am I gonna do?’ ” said Sharbono, 44, who began her entry in August and spent an estimated 250 hours on the project.
Those hours included trekking to Ashland to survey Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s outdoor theater, where Sharbono was taken with the ivy covering much of its exterior. With nearly flawless form, Sharbono hand-piped in green royal icing hundreds of miniature ivy leaves across her entry’s back wall.
“I just thought it was so beautiful.”
Beauty, whimsy and no small amount of ingenuity can be seen in the Jubilee’s 27 entries, auctioned Friday at a holiday-themed gala to benefit Craterian Performances. The cookie creations are on display at this weekend’s community tour, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday at downtown Medford’s Collier Center for the Performing Arts, 23 S. Central Ave. Admission is $3 per person.
Raising more than $1.5 million over the past 15 years, the Jubilee is the Craterian’s flagship fundraiser. Poised once again to generate more than $200,000, the Jubilee has drawn more than 30,000 visitors from around the region, who also come for the benefit’s live musical performances and festive foods and beverages.
Sharbono, who manages Medford’s Red Lobster restaurant, was just another spectator a few years ago. This year, she learned to make her own molds for the solid chocolate trees posing as set pieces in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” She sprayed rice paper sheets varying shades of green before punching out 4,000 minuscule leaves, a task that took 11 hours, before she applied them with tweezers to the trees.
“For me, it’s a lot of fun,” says Sharbono. “I really enjoy it.”
The Gladbach family of Grants Pass so enjoyed the 2017 competition that they tripled their fun this year, collecting prizes for three separate entries. Winners of last year’s mixed age group competition, Natalie, Bill and Ryan Gladbach upheld their title with help from Natalie’s mother, Connie Derek. Their entry, “The Three Little Pigs,” showcases Derek’s skill at sculpting. Fashioning porcelain dolls as a hobby, Derek used fondant for the piece’s porcine figurines.
The Gladbachs’ 8- and 12-year-old daughters ventured out on their own this year with a Dr. Seuss-inspired scene. “Whoville — How the Grinch Stole Christmas” earned Kate and Amelia Gladbach first place in the student category and its $500 prize. Their 14-year-old brother, Ryan, made a last-minute bid in the category and took home third place and $100 for “Winter Wonderland,” a cozy cabin shingled in Golden Grahams cereal.
“What’s wrong with a little healthy competition?” asks Natalie Gladbach. “We’re already thinking about next year.”
Other winners included “Holiday in Paradise,” a tropical treehouse submitted by Jacquie Farr, who won first place in the adult category and $500. Anne Rager’s “Christmas in Whoville” won second place and $250, and “Avatar” claimed third place and $100 for frequent Jubilee competitors Lily Cusumano and Nichole Steward.
Also winners at last year’s Jubilee, Dave Gray and family took second place among mixed age groups and the category’s $250 prize with “Deck the Halls.” The Zavala family won third place and $100 for “Roald Dahl’s Wacky World.” In the student category, Allie Rist won second place and $250 for “Christmas on the Coast.”
Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at firstname.lastname@example.org.