ROSELAND, NJ — Out of the 35 entries in this year’s Sustainable Homes and Habitats Gingerbread Contest hosted by the Essex County Environmental Center, two West Orange families earned second and third place in the “group/family” category for their distinctiveness, creative use of nature theme, use of sustainable building design techniques and skill in decoration.

The holiday contest, held annually over the last 15 years, helps raise awareness about nature and the environment by encouraging members of the public to create and submit gingerbread homes that were judged by members of the Essex County Environmental Commission. The gingerbread homes were on display at the Essex County Environmental Center during the first two weeks of December.

Jennie, Lee and Joel Goldberg won second place in the “group/family” category while fellow West Orange residents Randie Lynn, Charnelle Bain and Aubry Lynn came in third place—both falling just short of young Roseland residents JJ and Brody Rella and Brandon and Ryan Sivori.

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Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, joined in the photos above by Essex County Parks Director Dan Salvante and Environmental Center Director Tara Casella (second from right), recently presented awards to the children and families who participated in the contest.

“Our Sustainable Homes and Habitats Gingerbread Contest is a wonderful project that incorporates our mission to raise awareness about nature with a holiday theme,” said DiVincenzo. “This hands-on, family-oriented contest lets people of all ages learn about the environment in a fun way. I am amazed at the creativeness and ingenuity of the entries each winter. Everyone who participated in this contest was a winner.”

The public was invited to participate in the following categories: 

  • Individual Child Category for children ages 14 or younger who worked independently on all aspects of their entry; 
  • Group/Family Category for children 14 and younger who worked as a group or had adult assistance on any aspect of their entry; 
  • Adult Non-Professional Category for individuals or groups of people ages 15 and older who are students of the culinary arts or are not professional chefs; and 
  • Adult Professional Category for individuals or groups of people ages 15 and older who are professional chefs or are working in the culinary arts.

Sponsors of this year’s contest included:

  • Green Point Juicery and Organic Juice Bar in Verona;
  • McLoone’s Boathouse in West Orange;
  • Kitchen a la Mode in South Orange;
  • Starbucks in Roseland;
  • ShopRite of West Caldwell;
  • Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown;
  • The Towne Scoop in Verona;
  • Montclair Art Museum;
  • Learning Express in Verona;
  • Zoological Society of NJ and Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange;
  • Morristown Game Vault;
  • Jersey Mike’s Subs in Roseland;
  • Jerry’s Artist Outlet in West Orange;
  • Sierra Trading Post in East Hanover;
  • R.E.I. in East Hanover;
  • Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex and Codey Arena in West Orange;
  • Earth, Wind & Flowers in East Hanover;
  • Keurig Hardware in Livingston; and
  • Fairchilds Market in Roseland.

A full list of the award winners is as follows:

Group/Family Category: 

  • First Place: JJ and Brody Rella and Brandon and Ryan Sivori from Roseland.
  • Second Place: Joel, Jennie and Lee Goldberg from West Orange.
  • Third Place: The Lynn family from West Orange.

Individual Child Category: 

  • First Place: Laura Stairiker from Caldwell.
  • Second Place: Andrew Katz from East Hanover.
  • Third Place: Anna Katz from East Hanover.

Non-Professional Adult Category: 

  • First Place: Essex County West Caldwell School of Technology culinary arts students Elias Jouaq, Johnathan Thomas, Andres Garcia and Claudio Panduro and their teacher Victoria Atfield.
  • Second Place: Essex County Donald M. Payne, Sr. School of Technology culinary arts students Anjali Maragh, Nia Campbell and Ashley Zumba and their teacher Amarilys Olivo Mockabee.
  • Third Place: Susan Tran from North Caldwell.

Adult Professional Category: 

  • First Place: Sunrise Bakery at the West Caldwell ShopRite.

There are many classes and programs with nature themes offered at the Essex County Environmental Center, which is located at 621B Eagle Rock Avenue in Roseland. Registration is required for all programs at the Essex County Environmental Center by calling 973-228-8776.