A year like no other created opportunity for change
The 18th Annual Gingerbread Extravaganza, the major fundraiser for the Jacksonville Historical Society, almost didn’t happen.
Planning had barely begun for the 2020 event when the coronavirus pandemic showed up in Jacksonville, shuttering the city on Friday,
March 13, 2020, and casting doubt on whether this beloved tradition would again light up faces at Old St. Andrew’s Church.
Thanks to a supportive Board of Directors and many generous sponsors, our doors were thrown open on December 1, welcoming new builders (29 of 45 displays were done by first-time gingerbread makers) and many annual visitors, who were heard exclaiming, “We are so thankful you held Gingerbread this year!” The JHS is very thankful for the nearly 2,000 visitors, 29 sponsors, and the 35 artists and businesses who donated items for the silent auction, quilt raffle, bake shop or other needs.
Health safety precautions resulted in changes that may become our modus operandi for future Gingerbread Extravaganzas. Online ticket sales and appointment times helped reduce long lines at the door; relocating the holiday gift shop – and adding a bake shop – gave visitors more time to browse the displays and to shop; a one-way traffic flow cut down
some of the chaos, improving the experience. The ever-popular scavenger hunt, designed by Gingerbread Coordinator Amanda Shaw, enthralled young and old alike, with many visitors determined to find all 26 items without assistance from staff.
New this year, a virtual tour of the exhibit, as well as the addition of a silent auction and a quilt raffle provided opportunities for holiday gift-giving. The silent auction included a variety of prizes, such as a catered river cruise; a tea party in the Merrill House; original art by local painters and photographers; several photography sessions; Bellwether restaurant gift card and wine; whiskey and a tour of Manifest Distilling, a local distillery; a tour of Wayne Wood’s yard art; a historic site tour conducted by Dr. Alan Bliss; a candle-scenting party; a golf foursome, and a small-scale replica of the Life sculpture in Memorial Park, along with a baluster from the park wall and a copy of LIFE: The Untold Story of Charles Adrian Pillars by Wayne Wood. Winners of the quilts, made and donated by Betty Ann Agnew, were Veronica Potter, who won the queen-size quilt, and Clay Hardee, winner of the gingerbread quilt.
Different this year, the People’s Choice Award resulted from online voting for favorite display. The winner was the Downtown Council of the JAX Chamber, whose creation paid tribute to another beloved local tradition: The Painting of the Pawprints.
Each year three members of the architectural and interior design industries judge the displays to bestow honors for “Best in” six categories plus Best in Show. Below is a gallery of those winners:
Thanks again to all who participated to make this Gingerbread Extravaganza one of the best ever! To stay informed of opportunities for the 2021 Gingerbread Extravaganza, join the Jacksonville Historical Society’s monthly e-newsletter by clicking here.