A Critical Review of the Gingerbread Village

The Sheraton has re-imagined Seattle in candy and cookies. But did they get it right?

In a way, gingerbread houses are the highest form of art. The more beautiful the creation, the less likely one is to eat it. If only other artists were put under that kind of pressure.

This is the kind of thought that might occur to anyone who walks through this year’s edition of the Sheraton Seattle Gingerbread Village, a holiday tradition in which various chefs and architecture firms volunteer their time to construct elaborate structures out of a delicious cake, all to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, as well as the gingerbread families who get to live in these homes.

This year’s theme is “25 Years of Cheer: A Celebration of Seattle.” The entire event is a totally selfless act, so it’s only natural to critically review the efforts of these world builders.

Historic North Seattle

Created by CallisonRTKL & Hargis, Chef Lee Baldyga

You will notice that the Gingerbread Village explores both historic and future Seattle, encompassing North, downtown, and South Seattle. There’s no gingerbread representation of present Seattle, which is great, because that is where all my problems reside.

This structure is a flurry of activity, and features a jolly sea captain riding a giant gummy whale and holding a tiny gingerbread ship over his shoulder. The whale is being attacked by a squid made of Swedish Fish, while a seagull hovers above waiting to devour the loser’s carcass. Gingerbread nature is cruel.

A brilliant stroke is the popcorn smoke coming out of the Gas Works factory. For all we know, this is exactly what North Seattle used to be like.

Future North Seattle

Created by Mackenzie & Chef David Mestl

Imagine if you will North Seattle, made entirely of gingerbread, with a Fruit Loop sea floor that stretches to infinity. The year is 2117, and I’ve gone long enough with this Rod Serling impression.

Here the gingerbread structures tower above the sea, and include Ray’s, a spinning Space Needle, Dick’s, and a space bus, which presumably takes you to an oxygenless gingerbread void.

One question comes to mind: Would Dick’s really survive in a world where everything is made of gingerbread? Because one can only assume that the burgers are made from gingerbread as well, and so why would any customer go there when they can get gingerbread for free? I expect Dick’s corporate to address this issue.

Historic Downtown Seattle

Created by Bailly & Bailly, Chef John Armstrong

Rising majestically above crystalline candy waters, this gingerbread creation takes us back to downtown Seattle in 1917, when Pike Place Market housed numerous vendors who sold nothing but candy, and little gingerbread tourists took in the sights (tourists aren’t as bad when they’re made of gingerbread). The piers are lined with those awful peppermint starlight mints you get at bad restaurants, and everything sits below what appears to be the gingerbread Trinity Episcopal Church, with little candy stained-glass windows. I’d be there every Sunday.

Since it’s 1917, the year the Seattle Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup, a giant gummy-lined hockey stick juts across the structure. You’d never be able to take an actual slap shot with it, but I really wanted to steal the gingerbread stick and use it for street hockey.

Future Downtown Seattle

Created by MG2 & Chef Joleen Anderson

The downtown skyline of this Atlantis-inspired piece features towering luminescent buildings of candy casting shadows over smooth blown sugar waters. Circling on its tracks below is the Monorail, still apparently a mode of transportation in the future.

The Great Wheel is beautiful, but its passengers confused me a bit. Each gondola includes a snowman sitting with his gingerbread kid, which means that in the future snow people are sleeping with gingerbread people. How did they hook up? It’s obvious. One can trace it to the first time a troublemaking teenager took the carrot nose out of a snowman and placed it at the crotch. This was a revolutionary act in the snowman community, and cross-species intercourse followed suit. Let’s move on.

Historic South Seattle

Created by Master Builders Association, Gelotte Hommas Drivdahl Architecture & Chef Jay Sardeson

Remember in school when you were building dioramas and one of your classmates was clearly kissing the teacher’s ass? That’s what this gingerbread structure is, because it’s filled with paragraph-length labels explaining the history of South Seattle. I didn’t come to the gingerbread village to learn anything. But the joke’s on them, because the entire base is spinning too fast to read.

This scholarly gingerbread formation features the Smith Tower, Seattle Hotel, Yesler Mansion, and the first streetcar, all of which take second fiddle to the brilliant red glow of the Great Seattle Fire raging below. There’s even a little hose trying to put it out. Perhaps if my teachers had used more gingerbread in their classes, I’d know more of this history.

Future South Seattle

Created by 4D Architects & Chef Jay Sardeson

Future South Seattle feels like gingerbread Blade Runner. One can imagine a tiny gingerbread Harrison Ford using a videophone in the rain. The brilliant skyline is replete with futuristic skyscrapers, and there are an array of sports options, including Clint Dempsey Stadium, CenturyLink Field, Hansen Arena, and Safeco Field, home of the “Seattle Mariners World Champions 2080.” Below it all is Bertha easily drilling through the gingerbread foundation.

While this is clearly the fillet of the village, Future South Seattle has the worst candy: candy corn, black licorice, Andes Chocolate Mints still in their wrapper? I mean, come on. I’m trying to eat here.


The future Dick’s, where the hamburgers are served on gingerbread. Photo by Chason Gordon

The future Dick’s, where the hamburgers are served on gingerbread. Photo by Chason Gordon