KENT — Complete with marzipan snowmen, candy cane fences and gum drop shrubbery, gingerbread houses once again grace the shops and businesses of Kent in the 9th annual Gingerbread Festival that runs through the month of December.

Each year, volunteer bakers concoct delightful creations to be put on public display. This year, there are 20 houses in 19 locations around town.

“We have a few new bakers participating this year that have been inspired by the houses they have seen in the past,” said Ellen Corsell, owner of Heron American Craft Gallery and co-organizer of the festival.

Some gingerbread houses are actually quite innovative and complex. In the past, the Taj Mahal, a ski lodge and one of Kent’s famous historical landmarks, Bull’s Bridge, have all been recreated using gingerbread and some creative cookie engineering. This year’s houses feature a mermaid’s castle and the Empire State Building, among others.

“The fest has grown in popularity, and we have families that now make it an annual event to see the houses each year,” said Corsell.

“From the beginning of the festival nine years ago, it was very important that this event would bring the whole community together,” explained one of the festival founders, Jill Zinzi.

Maps of the gingerbread house locations will be available at all participating shops. In keeping with the festive spirit of this month-long holiday affair, each house has a clue to help solve a riddle on the map. Anyone who collects all the clues and solves the riddle can turn in their map to be entered into a raffle to win a prize. While this year’s prize will remain a secret until the drawing, past prizes have included gift certificates and coupons to Kent businesses, and jewelry.

The gingerbread houses are also judged and awarded prizes of their own in two categories. The first category is the people’s choice award. The public can vote on their map for what they think is the best gingerbread house. The second category is the judges’ choice award. Several local residents serve as judges and select their best gingerbread house. Winners receive cash prizes, and are announced during the last week in December on the Gingerbread Festival Facebook page.

New this year is a gingerbread ornament-making event on Dec. 7 hosted by Frank Way, owner of frank. food company. At this ticketed event, adult participants will have the opportunity to decorate their own bird-shaped gingerbread cookie ornament to take home, or give away as a holiday gift. “Spending an afternoon with Frank is always an adventure,” chuckled Corsell, a friend of Way’s.

When reflecting on how the festival began and where it is today, Zinzi mused, “Watching the joy on the children’s faces as their noses are pressed up against the window displays, and their excitement at finding clues on the gingerbread trail maps—that’s what warms my heart.”

This truly is the sweetest festival during the holiday season in Litchfield County.

For more information, visit www.kentctgingerbreadfestival.com.

Connecticut Media Group