Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

UTC's Gingerbread Festival gives Girl Scouts chance to express creativity

The annual event runs through Dec. 10 at The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota.

Members of Girl Scout Troop 365 takes pride in their school so they decided to recreate Robert E. Willis Elementary School out of gingerbread.
Members of Girl Scout Troop 365 takes pride in their school so they decided to recreate Robert E. Willis Elementary School out of gingerbread.
Image courtesy of Amanda Duff
  • East County
  • Neighbors
  • Share

From the cows in the pasture next to Robert E. Willis Elementary School to the school’s mascot to her friends and teachers, first grader Mackenzie Duff loves everything about her school. 

She loves Willis Elementary so much, she suggested her Girl Scout Troop 365 recreate their school for the 15th annual Gingerbread Festival at the Mall at University Town Center. 

Duff couldn’t wait to see her troop’s gingerbread house on display with dozens of others at the Mall at UTC now through Dec. 10. 

Amanda Duff, Mackenzie Duff’s mother and a Girl Scout Troop 365 leader, said the 14 girls in her troop take pride in their school, and they recreated it complete with a car line and the pasture, cows, and the lake next door.

Meadow Nordine, Charlie Falbisaner and Natalie Fant of Troop 365 based at Willis Elementary dive into the candy they are using to decorate their gingerbread house.
Image courtesy of Nicol Hotaling

She said what makes Willis Elementary extra special is school spirit, and even the cows are part of that spirit.

“Willis doesn’t own them, but they call them the ‘Willis cows,’" Amanda Duff said of her daughter and her fellow students.

She said every time she drives by, her daughter says, "Hi, Willis cows.”

Amanda Duff’s troop spent its troop meeting Nov. 29 constructing their gingerbread school. She described the process as organized chaos.

“Sparkles everywhere. Frosting everywhere. Sprinkles on the table. Cardboard pieces everywhere. Candy, gum drops, M&Ms everywhere,” she said. “The girls kept wanting to eat the candy.”

Girl Scout Troop 365's gingerbread house of Robert E. Willis Elementary School joins more than 150 houses on display as part of the Gingerbread Festival at the Mall at University Town Center.
Image courtesy of Amanda Duff

Amanda Duff said it was impressive to see the girls break into groups and work together to make the gingerbread school a reality. The girls’ eyes were “like saucers” in amazement when they saw the completed project, she said. 

Mackenzie Duff said she wants other people at the Gingerbread Festival to see how special Willis is, and she’s looking forward to seeing the other gingerbread houses created for the festival.

This year was the first time Girl Scout Troop 365 participated in the Gingerbread Festival. After having fun making the gingerbread house, Amanda Duff said she hopes to make the festival a tradition for her troop. 

The festival has been a tradition for Stephanie Klosterman and her four Girl Scout troops for at least seven years. 

Klosterman has enjoyed seeing how the themes they choose for the gingerbread houses progress as they age. 

This year’s themes range from Spongebob Squarepants to princesses to “Grey’s Anatomy.” They are the most creative Kloseterman said she’s seen her Girl Scouts make over the years. 

Klosterman has her Girl Scouts thinking about what themes they want to do around Halloween before deciding all the materials they need. She said it’s fun to see them think outside the box. 

“It’s fascinating to watch how their minds grow and how they change and learn,” she said. “Everything they do, they’re learning something.”

Emily Schappert recreates aspects of Bikini Bottom from "Spongebob Squarepants" with members of her Girl Scout troop for the annual Gingerbread Festival.
Courtesy image

Klosterman's older troops gathered at Sarah Schappert’s home in Parrish for a holiday party in which they spent five hours constructing their gingerbread houses. 

Emily Schappert, a seventh grader, recreated Spongebob Squarepants’ pineapple home, Patrick Star’s rock and the Krusty Krab from “Spongebob Squarepants.” They’ve grown up watching the cartoon. 

She said creating Spongebob’s pineapple wasn’t as easy as she originally thought. It took a few attempts of varying methods to get the pineapple not only look right but also not collapse. They tried using gingerbread as a base with Rice Krispies on it, but it kept falling apart. They tried attaching the Rice Krispies to cardboard, but the cereal kept falling off. Finally, they made the pineapple home only out of Rice Krispies. It worked. 

But to keep with the gingerbread theme, the girls decided to make the Krusty Krab, the restaurant in which Spongebob works, out of gingerbread. 

They completed their underwater scene with coral made out of candy melts and gummy fish. 



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

Latest News