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December 23, 2014 at 11:22 am

A&S Team Follows the Yellow-Icing Road to Third Place

Arts & Sciences gingerbread cake with Wizard of Oz theme takes third place.

Arts & Sciences gingerbread cake with Wizard of Oz theme takes third place.

The College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office took third place in the Ohio University Culinary Services’ eighth annual Gingerbread House Decorating Contest in December.

It was the college’s third consecutive showing in the top 3.

With a theme of “75 Christmases in Oz,” the Arts & Sciences cake featured a house atop a tornado (made of cotton candy and crafted by Janice Bailey-Magill), a green castle made of bread loaves (aged to the perfect staleness by John Gilliom), Rice Krispie trees designed by Stevi Miller, and a yellow brick road. Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Lion and the Scarecrow were baked and intricately decorated by Linda Schoeppner. Lori Bauer used ice cream cones to make the three witches and candy molds for a couple of wild-eyed flying monkeys.

Schoeppner, Bailey-Magill and Miller did most of the on-site construction. Getting a graham cracker house to sit atop a giant candy cane pole surrounded by cotton candy was an engineering feat. And turning hardened loaves of French bread into the wizard’s castle required tons of green icing, a Rice Krispie base (what was left after a little nibbling in the morning), and lots of stick-to-it-ness.

Miller’s fingerprints were evident—make that finger-licking-good—throughout the morning.

Dorothy and friends from Oz

Dorothy and friends from Oz

What does it take to turn in award-winning designs year after year?

Leadership by Schoeppner, for starters. She recruits Wilson Hall employees (anyone willing, no prior experience required) and gets the team rolling. While some teams start planning and prepping weeks ahead, the Arts & Sciences team came together just a week before the event.

Two days before the “build,” the team spent their lunch break in Gilliom’s office sketching out their design on his whiteboard. Bauer declared failure on her first attempt at Glinda the Good Witch and vowed to try another material. Miller brought in a bag of Bugles, and the team searched for just-the-right-shape Bugles that could be used for orange cones. Team members admitted having not dined on Bugles for quite some time before this bonding event. With orange sparkles not available in the store this time of year, the team suggested dipping the cones in cheese sauce.

But there are no orange cones on the Arts & Sciences house, which just goes to show what happens on the day of the event. Not every idea makes it from the drawing board to the gingerbread.

A possible detour off the yellow-brick road—a red brick (licorice) road to Ohio University dotted with orange cones—didn’t make the final design for lack of room.

College of Arts and Sciences employees (from left) Linda Schoeppner, Janice Bailey-Magill and Stevi Miller construct a "75 Christmases in Oz" themed gingerbread house.  Photographer: Ben Siegel/Ohio University

College of Arts and Sciences employees (from left) Linda Schoeppner, Janice Bailey-Magill and Stevi Miller construct a “75 Christmases in Oz” themed gingerbread house. Photographer: Ben Siegel/Ohio University

How many hours go into a winning design? Quite a bit of baking and candy-making goes on ahead of time, including a star cookie for the castle hand-cut by Gilliom, who despite having collected hundreds of cookie cutters, did not have a small star stencil. Bailey-Magill also experimented with several graham-cracker houses at home before settling on the final design, rumored to have come from her husband, Tony. When Bauer discovered that JoAnn’s had flying monkey lollipop molds, she decided monkeys also would be appropriate for her daughter-in-law’s baby shower since it’s a boy.

It was Miller’s first time making Rice Krispie trees; no report is available on how many trees were eaten in the attempt.

Read more about the contest in Compass.

Check out Culinary Services’ Facebook page for more photos of this year’s event.

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