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Sun Valley Resort Announces Gingerbread Contest Winners
Wednesday, January 4, 2023


A gingerbread house with a magical tilt made out of Chex and frosting that looked like wind-blown snow  has won Sun Valley Resort’s inaugural Community Gingerbread House contest.

“I’ll Just Wing It” created by Michelle Willows took home the first-place $3,000 prize donated by Sun Valley Company on behalf of the Unega Mountain Dog Rescue, a facility near Timmerman Hill that cares for abandoned Great Pyrenees and Akbash sheep dogs.

The entry won the most votes of the 1,300 that were cast by those who viewed the gingerbread houses in Sun Valley Village’s Boiler Room during Sun Valley’s Winter Wonderland extravaganza. The organization will host its first fundraiser featuring a marathon, half-marathon and 10K and 5K race on May 6 at the Rinker Rock Creek Ranch west of Hailey.

“Ra-Pretzel’s Tower,” created by 13-year-old Brook Vagias, earned the second-place prize of $2,000 on behalf of the Friends of the Hailey Public Library, which raises funds to meet library needs. A prolific reader, Vagias said she hoped the money could support the library’s children’s library and perhaps even start a Free Little Lending Library in her neighborhood.

“A Dog Gone Good Day” entered by the staff of Mountain Humane won the third-place $1,000 donation on behalf of that organization. The no-kill shelter near Hailey finds homes for dogs and cats from shelters that cannot accommodate them and provides low-cost veterinary services, behavioral training and pet food assistance to keep families and pets together.

But—wait!—there’s more.

The race for third place was so tight that Sun Valley Resort added a $500 Honorable Mention award of $500 for a gingerbread school campus created on behalf of I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho.

The “Schools in Winter Wonderland” entry was created by Dream Scholar Eduardo Escalera, now a student at Sun Valley Culinary Institute, and I Have a Dream Foundation Program Director Pamela Donoso with the help of current Dream Scholars in Hailey and Bellevue’s elementary schools.

“We had 60 students from our program participate in the creation of our gingerbread house. Many, many hours of hard work went into this,” said Donoso, whose organization provides academic, social-emotional and enrichment programming for under-resourced youth from early elementary through post-secondary education with guaranteed tuition support.

Sun Valley Communications Manager Jenna Vagias noted that the 16 individuals and teams who competed had just a week to prepare their masterpieces.

“And they did not disappoint,” she said. “This valley is certainly filled with lots of talent!”

“We all know this community is filled with incredible talent and passion, but the time, care and artistry put into these gingerbread houses was truly incredible,” added Bridget Higgins, director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Resort. “We are excited about the community’s participation this year, am thrilled we are able to award the prize money to these deserving nonprofits and can't wait to see what everyone comes up with next year!”

The contest featured a variety of creative entries featuring the Starbucks Visitor Center, Sun Valley’s historic Roundhouse Restaurant, Trail Creek Cabin and even Hailey’s Bow Bridge on behalf of such organizations as The Advocates, Wood River Land Trust, NAMI-WRV, Higher Ground, Blaine County Housing Authority, Boulder Mountain Clay Works, Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, Environmental Resource Center, Flourish Foundation and the Senior Connection.

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