Gingerbread house donated to fundraiser

Published 8:33 am Friday, November 5, 2010

Dare Johnson stands next to a gingerbread house she will enter in a national competition. The Suffolk woman will donate a replica of the house to the Southampton-Franklin Habitat for Humanity Gingerbread Gala on Nov. 19.

FRANKLIN—Dare Johnson couldn’t afford the $300-plus for a night’s stay at the famous Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., so she found a way.

The Suffolk woman six years ago entered the hotel’s National Gingerbread House Competition and got a discounted rate. She’s also taken honorable mention every year but one since 2005 with her gingerbread house entries.

This year, Johnson will donate a two-square-foot, half-size replica of her national competition piece to the Southampton-Franklin Habitat for Humanity Gingerbread Gala. The non-profit’s signature event will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, at Cypress Cove Country Club.

“We’re very lucky to have Dare Johnson to contribute here,” said Event Co-Chairwoman Sandy Kirkland.

“We feel we acquired another star to participate in our event,” added Co-Chairwoman Beth Luck. “She has enthusiasm for what she does and wants to share her special talent.”

Johnson’s Hansel and Gretel Christmas-themed gingerbread house will be among a dozen that will be sold during a live auction at the gala, Kirkland said. The bakers at Farm Fresh in Franklin and students in the culinary arts program at Southampton Technical Career Center also are expected to have entries.

The $25 ticket for the fundraiser includes hors d’oeuvres.

Johnson’s gingerbread house also will be on display at Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library in Franklin from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18. The viewing is free and will include light refreshments.

Johnson began making gingerbread houses about 10 years ago. She learned about the national competition in Asheville on the Food Network television channel. Johnson and her husband, Bruce, went there to look at the gingerbread houses.

After seeing and falling in love with the hotel and seeing the entries, she decided to give it a try.

“It’s addicting almost to the point that after I finish the competition in November, while riding home, I’m thinking about what I will do next year,” said Johnson, whose daughter, Mechele Cutchins, lives in Courtland.

Johnson began working on this year’s house in early September. She gets help from her architecture-educated husband. The house is drawn on paper and cardboard pieces are cut out to see how the idea comes together.

“He makes the pattern and does it to scale,” Dare Johnson said.

She can’t say how many hours she puts into a competition piece and the gingerbread she makes for local churches, including Wilroy Baptist Church, where she attends.

“There’s no way to know,” Johnson said. “People ask me every year, ‘Don’t you get tired?’ I told them ‘yea,’ but it’s a good tired. Not a heavy tired.”

The competition in Asheville is on Nov. 15, but Johnson will return to Franklin for the events on Nov. 18 and 19.

Her goal is to break into the top 10 this year.

“This will be my sixth year,” Johnson said. “All but one, I’ve hit honorable mention, which is a step down from the top 10. It’s an honor just to get honorable mention, but I would love to get in the top 10.”

For tickets to the Gingerbread Gala, call Kirkland at 562-3238 or Luck at 562-5412.