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Sweet competition

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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -

Communities across Vermont took advantage of the first day of December to spread holiday cheer. In Middlebury, residents cooked up a competition frosted with tradition.

Most displays at the Vermont Folklife Center aren't supposed to be touched. But, its newest showing, is meant to be eaten - just not right away. This year, more than 70 people entered the 14th annual Ginger Bread house contest.

"My mom baked the walls... my dad sort of did the print... and I decorated the whole thing," said 8-year-old entrant Amanda Kearns of her model eiffel tower, "I put the graham crackers on top. I had to stand on a chair it was so high."

Kearns' candy-encrusted tower is much smaller than the iconic original but loomed well over the rest of the competition. She says she and her team needed to change their building techniques to achieve the desired scale. "I broke one wall, but the rest we figured out," she said, "what we had to do is we had to take the moisture out of them in the oven, so we cooked them a little extra."

The extra effort earned Kearns' several votes, but she says she's considering casting hers for the work of one of last year's winners: 17-year-old Emma Craven-Matthews. "We felt a lot of pressure this year to do something special," said Craven-Matthews.

Eventually she and her team decided on a Norwegian Christmas cruise theme. She says they didn't need to come up with a novel recipe to make the mini luxury liner take shape. "It just took a lot of glue and fondant, but eventually we got it put together," she said.

Craven-Matthews says they had smooth sailing throughout much of the construction but ironically transportation proved much trickier.

The tasty exhibit will remain open through Dec. 19 and several categories are up for grabs. Entrants cover a wide range of ages but only the youngest seem interested in devouring their work once the exhibit gets stale.

Craven-Matthews says though nobody is touching their work, public space means germs will likely coat her piece before she gets a chance to take a bite. "Which is one thing," she said, "and then there's the fondant, which is edible, but not that delicious."

We asked Kearns is she'll let her mom - who helped her build the impressive tower - share in the post-show feast. "I don't know, I kind of want to eat it myself," she said. After a little thought, she added that she may be too proud of her work to let it be destroyed.

Victory will taste sweet no matter how good the homes actually taste.

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