Tami Dristiliaris, who baked up Dracut’s annual Gingerbread House competition

The brainchild of Tami Dristiliaris, the Rotary’s Gingerbread House competition at Harmony Hall has turned into a Dracut holiday tradition. Debbie Hovanasian photo
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

DRACUT — Pictures with Santa in his sleigh, refreshments, gingerbread cookie decorating, holiday music and a chance to browse dozens of handcrafted, totally edible gingerbread creations. Add in the historic ambience of Harmony Hall, small town fellowship, and the fact that it’s fee, and what’s not to like about the fifth annual Gingerbread House competition sponsored by the Dracut Rotary?

On Saturday, Dec. 3, from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Harmony Hall will brim with festively decorated gingerbread creations donated by children, adults and professionals. Though one could spend the afternoon without spending a dime, opportunities to help out the Dracut Food Pantry are available. Like most pantries, it’s experiencing greater demand and lesser donations in this economy.

Tami Dristiliaris, nurse, attorney, Dracut Rotarian and mother of four, took some time from a busy schedule to answer five questions about this popular holiday event that started with her own vision.

Q: When and how did the Gingerbread House Competition get its start?

A: I love to bake, so five years ago I suggested to the Dracut Rotary that we do a gingerbread-house competition. The men were looking at me with a look of horror. I had this vision of how Harmony Hall could be set up. They were all onboard and said we’d give it a try and see how it goes. The first year we had 65 gingerbread houses and it’s been consistent at that ever since. It’s a community event that is free and we’re just here to make the holidays fun.

Q: How does the event help the Dracut Food Pantry?

A: This is not an event to raise money, but it does make money through the (optional) raffles and donations and all of it goes to the Dracut Food Pantry. We also encourage people to bring a food donation and we end up filling several bins that spill out to the other room. We give out pieces of sheet cake donated by Costco, and doughnuts and coffee donated by the Dunkin’ Donuts on Mammoth Road and Lakeview. It’s free, but we put out a tin and any donations are given to the pantry. Santa is there (from 5 to 7 p.m.) in a beautiful sleigh that Harvey Gagnon donates to the event, and parents take pictures of the kids with Santa with their own cameras.

For $5, you can take a chance on Santa Claus coming to your children’s party or family party for four hours. People can also enter a raffle to win one of the gingerbread houses.

Q: Which activity or activities are most popular?

A: Viewing the gingerbread houses and voting for favorites. The kids make scenes that would fill a table, but the whole thing needs to be edible. Cookie decorating is great, too. We buy 300 gingerbread cookies from Greater Lowell Technical High School and they are delicious. During the year I buy sprinkles, candy and other decorations — anything a kid can stick on a cookie. Santa is also very popular.

Q: Are you still accepting forms to enter the competition?

A: Yes, and even if you don’t fill out an entry form and decide at the last minute to make a gingerbread house, just show up with it. Drop-off is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday (Dec. 2) at Harmony Hall. Also, you can drop off Saturday morning; even after 11 a.m. is fine if you’re late finishing it up. It doesn’t cost anything to enter and all those who enter get a prize and a sheet of raffle tickets free.

Q: Does it bring in a lot of people?

A: We usually get about 400. It’s a great community event that gets people out in our own town, coming together in Harmony Hall. For me, this starts the Christmas season and I think it does for many people.

People will just sit and drink coffee or cocoa, relax, talk, laugh and have fun. It gets us away from the hustle and bustle, spending relaxed time with family.

We have a nice town with a lot of nice people, and everyone at this event is happy and joyous.

For more information or to obtain an entry form contact Tami Dristiliaris at tmdlaw@comcast.net or 978-458-1400.

q

Send 5 Questions story ideas to Debbie Hovanasian at sunfaith@comcast.net.