Dec 24, 2021
BOCES culinary instructor Dave Caccamise assists student Kaedence Jaffray in building her house. Jaffray would take third place in the senior house competition.
For the 25th year, Dave Caccamise had his junior and senior culinary arts/hospitality arts students at the LoGuidice Educational Center compete in the gingerbread house construction competition. His students this year did not disappoint.
“This was one of the toughest years to choose winners,” Caccamise said. “The detail and creativity the students showed was beyond imaginable.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s voting for winning houses was held online by 109 voters; the same number of voters who voted last year. Caccamise said the online voting is not quite as good as being able to see the houses in person.
“The only thing with going virtual was the pictures don’t do all the houses justice,” Caccamise said. “In the past, staff and faculty would look above, around, and underneath the houses but now they have to go by pictures of the front and back.”
One difference from last year in a positive sense, however, is that the seniors were able to branch out and come up with their own house design. Last year, Caccamise shortened the length of the board the students could build on and made the juniors and seniors work off a template, and while he kept the board length the same for this year, the seniors could come up with creative ideas.
OBSERVER Photos by Anthony Dolce Caccamise helps a group of his students construct their house for the competition.
“Last year, because we had two separate groups of students and didn’t meet on Wednesdays, we had to change how we did things,” Caccamise said. “This year, the seniors got to do whatever they wanted.”
And the seniors did go that route. Fredonia’s Davon McCall constructed a gingerbread football stadium, and while it didn’t place, Caccamise said he had never had anyone do that before. And fellow Fredonia senior Kaedance Jaffray constructed the Hobbit Hole, taking inspiration from Lord of the Rings.
“No one likes to have their reins held back,” said Caccamise. “Kaedence said she’d been thinking about doing the Hobbit Hole for years. If you can dream it and fit it on the board, you can do it. We had the football arena that was unique too and in my 25 years, I’ve never had anyone do that.”
But the template isn’t all bad, as Caccamise said it really helps the juniors out. The base template saves time in design and helps students if they have to miss time due to COVID-19 or anything else. Even with the template, no two houses look the same, and whether there’s a template or not, Caccamise said creativity and patience teaches the kids a lot about life.
“My biggest thing is patience and creativity,” Caccamise said. “I tell them this teaches a lot about life, in terms of facing adversity. Sometimes you walk in and your chimney is on the ground or your roof collapses. How do you bounce back from that? Kids have to go to plan B and potentially try something else. This project doesn’t happen in one day, you have to design it, make it, and bake it.”
Additionally, juniors are required to work as partners, while the seniors can choose to work alone or in groups. Caccamise said both options have upside.
“With the juniors having to work as partners, it’s a lesson I teach them in having to work together and work through creative differences,” Caccamise said. “Seniors have the option of working in a group and that lets you do whatever you want and can let creative juices flow.”
And in this case, the group work paid off for the senior winners. Conor Clary and Anthony Fitz-Gerald, both from Fredonia, took first place as juniors last year, and this year ran the competition back, taking first place as a group, this time as seniors. Caccamise said that that feat is a rarity.
“That doesn’t happen very often,” Caccamise said. “They might take second place or third place but I don’t think I’ve ever had a first-place repeat.”
The project began Nov. 29, and ran until Dec. 17, giving the students 15 school days to complete their project in full. Caccamise said that none of his groups gave up on the project, with everyone fighting through the adversity they may have faced.
Voters had from Tuesday morning until 5 p.m. Tuesday to complete their voting, and while the 109-voter turnout is strong, Caccamise is hoping they can resume in-person voting for the competition next year.
The winners of the gingerbread house competition are as follows:
¯ JUNIORS — first place, Lilliana Kryniski and Jack Whitaker, both from Brocton; second place — Mary Dunn, Forestville; and Rosalee LeBeau, Gowanda; third place: Hunter Noody, Brocton; and Elijah Boerst, Pine Valley.
SENIORS — first place, Clary and Fitz-Gerald, both of Fredonia; second place, Autumn Nephew, Gowanda; third place, Jaffray, Fredonia.
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