Tuesday, 18 December 2012

2012 JCCC Winter Festival - Gingerbread Competition

A martial arts club isn't just a school. It is a community working towards an ideal goal. A family that helps each other grow as individuals.

Members of our Kyudo club represent this philosophy admirably in their dedication to training and bringing people together through cooperation. As one of many clubs that make the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre a home, we try to contribute to the cause through volunteering at the annual Bazaar, as well as contributing to the Family Winter Festival.

In 2011, we placed 2nd with a gingerbread Kyudojo, falling just shy of the ultimate prizes: Gift coupons to local restaurants. This year, we chose Carl's house from the Pixar movie "UP". A whimsical display, requiring moderately difficult engineering, that would hopefully put us over the top.

Planning started a few weeks prior to the event with project manager, Aleem, building his team and organizing the purchase of materials. Our tireless baker, Mos, prepared each and every shape and size of gingerbread we would need to construct the house; and with all the materials ready for assembly, we gathered the day before the competition at Mie sensei's house and laid out the plans.

Each piece was meticulously labelled with spares just in case
Architectural design based off a paper model of the house
3:00 PM: While Aleem, Michael, and Nanik went about building the foundation of the house with gingerbread and icing sugar, other jobs had to be done as well. Ray's marzipan figures turned out amazing, and gave Yukiko a wonderful starting point to fill in personal details of each character.
Marzipan figures, food colouring, and paint brush set

Plastic knives used...if we only thought of the piping bag sooner ;P
Doug started working away at a cylinder of layered rice crackers that would serve as a base for the balloons to rise out of the chimney. The balloons were prepared by Tane using marshmellows and food colouring. Our initial reservations with this method gave way to excitement as we saw how vibrant the colours were coming out from the sugary balls.

5:00 PM: Two hours into the project, each of us were settling in to our various tasks. The construction was moving along at a steady, but slow pace, and as one member got tired, another would fill in. A natural rhythm was formed and the team continued to work with the efficiency gained only through the practice of Japanese Arts.

A brief pizza, pop, and chips break, courtesy of Tane, provided additional energy, but some "other snacks" were available too.
There goes our spare pieces...^_^
Fine tuning and leveling the structure required some thinking
7:00 PM: Nearly five hours in, the icing was finally settled, providing stability to the walls. Each side was colourfully painted, with additional detail like windows and doors being added as a final touch. Fatigue and hunger were returning, testing concentration and patience, but our team soldiered on.
The rice cracker base was supplemented with marshmellows.
The "balloons" were pierced with dried Chap-Chae noodles
10:00 PM: When Michael, Hanna, and I returned after dinner, the roof and chimney were already installed and the balloons were being placed with care. Since the icing for the chimney still needed to dry, we decided to insert only a few balloons and to fill in the rest just before the competition was to start.

Aleem, Mos, Nanik, and Tane had done a wonderful job assembling the major pieces and took a well-deserved break as we stepped into our shift. Ray returned a few minutes later with McDonalds, providing the last burst of sustenance for completing the project.
MORE!!! MORE!!!!
11:30 PM: Another 90 minutes blew by as we worked on cleaning the debris and putting in the grass, fences, and characters. The result was a masterpiece.

The next day, we submitted our entry to the JCCC in Shokokai Court as one of seven participants. Throughout the day, families walked by and were given the option of voting for:
  • Best Overall
  • Most Original
  • Children's Choice (only votes by kids)

The Final Results:

Best Overall - #5 Carl's house from Up (WE WON!)
2nd Overall - #7 A Canadian Christmas
Children's choice - #1 Our Dream Cottage
Most Original - #2 Whoville

Congratulations go to everyone who worked on and supported the project from start to finish. It was a tiring eight and a half hours of construction, but the sense of accomplishment made the whole endeavour worth while.

There's really no limit to what a team of dedicated and committed individuals can accomplish. Perhaps a proper Kyudojo for our club isn't as improbable as previously imagined. As long as we stick together, I, for one, believe it can happen.

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