Conservatory, confectioners make holidays sweet

Messenger photos by John Matuszak

The Victorian gingerbread home created by Suzanne Karpus, owner of Cornucopia in Bexley, was a first-place winner in the Franklin Park Conservatory’s confectionary contest, and Alice Dreischarf, of Alice’s Piece of Cake in Powell, earned a second-place ribbon for her rendition of the Santa Maria. These and more than 30 other entries are on display, along with poinsettias and Currier and Ives prints that will enliven a season of holiday happenings. The Enchanted Railroad, in the Palm Room of the Franklin Park Conservatory, is decked out for the holidays with lights and poinsettias. The display, designed by Paul Busse, features storybook scenes and trains running throughout.

What is more festive for the holidays than glistening gingerbread houses, colorful poinsettias, model trains running through a storybook setting, and Currier and Ives prints of winter scenes?

Franklin Park Conservatory, at 1777 E. Broad St., has all of this and more on display through December.

Visitors can also enjoy the traditional candlelight dinners and tours and other family activities.

New this year, the conservatory is displaying 36 entries from its gingerbread house competition, with traditional and unique takes from local confectioners.

Suzanne Karpus, owner of Cornucopia Caterers in Bexley, earned a first-place ribbon in the professional category for her rendition of a Victorian home.

Karpus, who has operated from her Main Street location since 1983, remembers baking with her mother and grandmother during the holidays, making special Eastern European treats such as apple dumplings and raisin bread.

She did not try to tackle a gingerbread house until later. Her conservatory entry took about five days to fashion.

Karpus did not have a specific home in mind, just "one’s idea of the perfect Victorian house."

She started with a specific design that was measured to make sure all the pieces fit together, just like building a real house.

There were no major mistakes along the way.

"Nothing burned," Karpus said.

To get the structure to hold together in the humid atmosphere of the conservatory, she glazed it with an icing of egg whites and sugar, and decorated it with candies.

The most anxious moment came in delivering the finished product, she offered, a task she left to an employee. Fortunately, everything arrived in one piece.

Her holiday hideaway sits next to a replica of the Santa (who else?) Maria, created by Alice Dreischarf, of Alice’s Piece of Cake in Powell, cruising in on waves of blue icing.

Some families created replicas of their own homes, while Arika Taylor, of Newark, earned first-place honors in the youth division for her rendition of a more familiar abode – Snoopy’s dog house, all set to meet up with the Red Baron.

In the outer lobby, the conservatory is displaying 17 Currier and Ives prints from the Nationwide collection, depicting the winter wonderlands and one-horse open sleigh rides people like to sing about at this time of year.

The Franklin Park Conservatory’s signature poinsettia tree is still part of the celebration of the holidays, along with 100 varieties from Ohio and around the country.

One hundred varieties of poinsettias are on display throughout the conservatory, including the Enchanted Express in the Palm House, where model trains run past make-believe scenes with Rapunzel, the Three Little Pigs and the Old Woman in a Shoe.

All the scenes – as well as worldwide architectural marvels in the conservatory’s biomes – were created by landscape designer Paul Busse and are made entirely of natural materials.

The Enchanted Express will remain on display until spring.

Candlelight Nights will be held Wednesday evenings, December 12, 19 and 26, from 5 – 8 p.m., with hundreds of poinsettias glowing in the light of votives placed throughout the building.

Visitors can enjoy a musical performance in the Grand Atrium, view the holiday displays and shop for the plant lovers and garden enthusiasts on your gift list at Botanica, or purchase a gift membership. Cam’s Garden Cafe will be open for dinner.

Candlelight Dinners in the historic Palm House and served by Cameron Mitchell Catering Company are available during Candlelight Nights. Call 297-0870 for Candlelight Dinner menu, pricing, and to make a reservation.

Other events include: Holiday Break Programs – Suitable for children ages 5 & up with adult assistance.

•Tuesday, December 26, 1 p.m. – Find out about different winter celebration from around the world and try your hand at related crafts to take home. Cost: $2 per child. No registration is required, however craft supplies are available on a first-come, first served basis.

•Wednesday, December 27, 1 p.m. – New Europa Troubadours present The Singing Trainmen. Go back to times of steam locomotives and derring-do with songs and stories of the Little Engine that Could, Working on the Railroad, and John Henry. Free with admission.

•Thursday, December 28, 1 p.m. – Sultana Nahar, accomplished performer of an elegant and complicated form of classical Indian dance, narrates stories from Indian mythology through hand and body gestures. Free with admission.

Admission is $7.50 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, $4 for children 2-12. Members and children under 2 free. All exhibitions are included in the general admission price
Hours are Tuesday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Wednesdays 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Open holiday Mondays. Holiday hours are December 24 & 31, & January 1, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day.

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