Ginger Betty vies for gingerbread house prize

The gingerbread house built by Ginger Betty’s Bakery in Quincy for this weekend’s 19th annual competition in Boston.
Beth Veneto
The gingerbread house built by Ginger Betty’s Bakery in Quincy for this weekend’s 19th annual competition in Boston.

Beth Veneto, the owner of Ginger Betty’s Bakery in Quincy, has high hopes as she heads into her 18th year in the 19th annual Gingerbread House Competition in Boston.

Having won Best in Show awards in the past for her Wizard of Oz house, her Christmas in Iraq design, and her Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set-up, and with several children’s choice awards under her belt, this year’s 4 -foot by 4-foot creation could be another winner.

“This one here was about 80 or so hours, from start to finish,” Veneto said of the time needed to craft this year’s entry. “We have our gingerbread team, some people are cutting cookies, some decorating. It’s pretty much a team effort.”


The entry has about 50 pounds of gingerbread, and enough candy for approximately 12 cavities, Veneto quipped.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“It’s pretty heavy, and lots of sugar and candy, lollipops,” she said in a telephone interview.

Veneto’s creation will be one of more than a dozen at the competition, which is part of the 26th annual Boston Christmas Festival taking place at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston this weekend. The winning entries will be announced Sunday, when the festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Some people attend the festival just to see the gingerbread houses, which grow in size and intricacy every year, said Florence Flynn, one of the event’s founders and its copresident.

“The houses have gotten so intricate and so large and so beautiful. More and more and more so every year,” Flynn said. “And the public awareness, some people are just coming to look at the show,’’ she said, and some “are coming to see the gingerbread houses, they are that great.”


Typically, 12 to 20 houses are entered into the competition, some by individuals, others are collaborative efforts with three dozen people participating in the creation.

For the festival as a whole, more than 30,000 people attend over the three days to see the gingerbread houses and shop at the hundreds of craft vendors.

The modern marvels of gingerbread art are produced not just for enjoyment of spectators, but to raise money for good causes.

The houses are donated and then sold for charity. This year, the Gingerbread House Competition will benefit Housing Families Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending family homelessness.

“You’re talking thousands of dollars for a house. And people buy them, sometimes for themselves, but sometimes they buy and redonate them — in the lobby of children’s hospitals, anyplace it cheers people up. It’s a neat thing,” Flynn said.


On average, the event raises $20,000 a year.

It “ is a big deal to this organization, and more than that, the organization gets to tell their story and show what they do to a huge crowd who isn’t necessarily aware of them. That’s a huge benefit for them,” Flynn said.

The chefs who bake and donate the gingerbread masterpieces also can walk away with a number of awards. Typically judges are local celebrities, such as TV news anchors, or food writers and editors.

“They come and come with their children. It’s a festive affair for them, and they look at the houses and they judge them,” Flynn said.

Participants can win prizes for best decoration, most creative, and best tasting — as gingerbread cookies are handed out alongside the houses.

“Finally we have a special award the kids judge — called the Kids’ Choice. Last year, Harry Potter’s castle won. Year before that was Red Sox stadium. It’s really fun,” Flynn said.

And while the competition may be stiff, Veneto was ready. She’s been making gingerbread houses since childhood, and her Samoset Avenue bakery specializes in gingerbread.

“Once you get into it, things change. Sometimes the plan you have kind of changes, but that’s fun, and it doesn’t really matter,” she said. “But I thought we’re pretty well prepared this year,’’ she said, even while noting that on Wednesday night “we were there till 12:30 getting finishing touches on.”

Visit for festival details.

Reach Jessica Bartlett at