Friday afternoon, the Rome Commons Ballroom at the University of Connecticut was transformed into a festive backdrop for the Ninth Annual Gingerbread House Decorating Contest where the Babbidge Builders were declared the champions.
“It’s so exciting,” Kim Mcnamara of the library staff’s team said of the win. “This is a great team effort. My team is amazing, [they’re] the most creative women I’ve ever know.”
The Babbidge Builders used their deconstructed gingerbread house to make the fabled Gulliver from the classic novel “Gulliver’s Travels.”
“We were going for creativity,” Mcnamara said. “This just seemed like the most fun. We didn’t think the odds of another group making a full person were that high.”
The ballroom was decked with enchanting literary-themed décor including hanging lanterns made of overlapping panels of book pages and vases consisting of rolled-up pages.
Jeremy Teitelbaum, Interim Provost and one of the judges of the contest, said he looked for creativity, neatness of execution and a sense of humor when evaluating the houses.
“It’s very difficult because there’s a lot of creativity here. So, we try to do our best,” Teitelbaum said.
Scott Jordan, the Executive Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer, served as the other judge.
“We just try to pick the one we like the most,” Jordan said. “If we tried to make a science of it, we’d be here for hours.”
In addition to the two awards given out based on the judges’ scores, there was also a People’s Choice Award based on the popular vote which went to two teams who tied for the most votes this year. The Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs’ team, A Band of Brothers, won for their gingerbread battle ground and the It’s Not You, It’s Me team from UTIS were the other winners with a house featuring a sinister Grinch face.
Teams took the Novel Holiday theme seriously and created houses inspired by books such as “The Night Before Christmas,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Polar Express” and “The Snowy Day.”
“Even among the non-winners, there were a lot of clever things,” Teitelbaum said.
Several teams went in less obvious directions, using less-traditional inspirations like the second-place team, Frosting Fixes Everything, from the CLAS Dean’s Office, which recreated Nakatoma Plaza from the movie “Die Hard.”
“We thought it’d be unique and fun,” team member Amanda Cannada said. “We thought it’d be a nice way to give everyone a little laugh.”
The team even took this humorous attitude into their attire for the event, taping “Bob Cratchet needed a hot toddy” Kermit the Frog memes to the backs of their shirts.
Many other teams also dressed for the occasion. There were festive antlers, aprons and hats abound.
The team from UConn Extension, the Extension Cords, drew inspiration from the classic holiday movie, “A Christmas Story,” with two members wearing fishnets and heels in homage of the iconic leg lamp and one member, Marc Cournoyer, dressed in Ralphie’s pink bunny outfit.
“I decided it was either this or the fishnets,” Cournoyer said.
Throughout the competition, there were three book-themed challenges teams had to complete in order to receive mystery items that needed to be incorporated into their design. Team members had to take a break from decorating to carry books on their head or complete a dewy decimal system challenge to receive peanut M&Ms, a ginger root and marshmallows.
The ginger root, the most unconventional of the mystery items, was used to add interesting details and characters to the creations, becoming the tornado from “The Wizard of Oz” and Jabba the Hutt in a “Star Wars” scene centered around a death-star sleigh.
“I’m a nerd. I love Star Wars. R2D2 is my spirit animal,” Nick Mcintosh of the MCB team, R2D2 and the Droids, said while donning a pair of R2D2 antlers.
Mcintosh said he made a mockup of the design the night before the competition.
“It came out really nice,” he said. “[The actual gingerbread creation] kind of worked. But it’s all in good fun. No regrets.”
Many who competed and came out to support other members of their department or the university said the event is a fun, lighthearted way to get together and engage in friendly competition.
“It’s just a fun day…to show our UConn spirit and have a good time,” UConn Communications team. Not the Gumdrop Buttons!, member Angie Reyes said.
Competitors also said that it gives them a chance to connect and work with others.
“We got invited for the first time ever [this year],” Officer Justin Cheney from the UCPD team said. “It’s a great time to connect with members of different departments.”
As teams bustled about to complete their creations, in a scene reminiscent of the climatic ending of a Hallmark Christmas movie, supporters milled about, chatting and enjoying the appetizers and desserts provided by UConn Dining Services.
“Out of all the events, this has got to be the event in terms of getting people together,” dining services director Dennis Pierce said. “There’s not another occasion when you can really see an administrator, the president, provost (and) and the head of General Counsel intermingling with everybody.”