Who better to win the Festival of Lights inaugural Gingerbread House Contest than a self-professed "sweet tooth?" Turlocker Kimberly Helm put her love of all things sweet into the creation of her award-winning entry titled, "Grandma's House."
"When I was little my grandma worked in a bakery. The memory of those sweets stuck with me," said Helm.
Even though her contest entry was only the second gingerbread house she's ever made, Helm has a passion for miniatures and has made quite a few fairy gardens.
Helm's gingerbread house has a number of unique features, such as two gingerbread men hitting the slopes, one on candy cane skis and another on a snowboard made of a sugar-coated candy strip. There's a food pile of pretzel wood to get the gingerbread family through the snowy winter and the entire house is lined with multi-colored Dum-Dums suckers.
"I'm a Dum-Dums fan, and I wanted to do something different than candy canes," said Helm.
Helm will take home a $500 prize for her first place entry in the contest sponsored by Reed Realty and Hilmar Cheese Company.
Coming in second place for a $300 prize was April and Kyle Kirkes with their gingerbread house that features Santa being pulled by four chocolate reindeer and a gingerbread train.
Enrique Jimenez of Turlock picked up the third place spot and $200 for his house titled, "Christmas Night" that featured Santa on the roof and snowmen playing in the front yard.
A panel of four judges — Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth, City Attorney Phaedra Norton, Bistro 234 Executive Chef Leroy Walker and Director of Child Nutrition for Turlock Unified School District Scott Soiseth — ranked the 19 contest entries on six criteria, overall appearance, degree of difficulty, creativity, use of gingerbread, hidden seams and use of space.
Scott Soiseth said his son the Mayor has had a lot of experience with gingerbread houses, as it is a holiday tradition in the Soiseth home. He said there are pictures of a younger Gary proudly displaying his gingerbread creation, but the Mayor said those photographs will remain classified.
While the judges reminisced about their own holiday traditions, when it came to choosing the top houses it was all business. All of the judges had a hard time picking winners from the many creative entries.
All 19 gingerbread houses entered into the contest will be on display in the Reed Realty office windows, located at 5 E. Main St., during the Festival of Lights event Friday night.