Roseland, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. presented awards to the children and families who participated in the Essex County Environmental Center’s 11th Annual Sustainable Homes and Habitats Gingerbread Contest on Saturday, December 19th. There were 47 entries in this year’s 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. This hands-on, family-oriented contest lets people of all ages learn about the environment in a fun way,” DiVincenzo said. “I am amazed at the creativeness and ingenuity of the entries each winter. Everyone who participated in this contest was a winner,” he noted.

The public was invited to participate in four 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. A list of the award winners is as follows:

Group/Family Category: First Place: Katherine, Izzy, Grace and Maddy Whelan from Essex Fells. Second Place: Ella, Ashlyn, Avery, Hayden, Patrick and Alicea McAdams from Montclair. Third Place: Joe Catena and Brennan Cunningham and their leader Judy Sorrentino from Pack 801 Webelos in Roseland.

Individual Child Category: First Place: Mesgana Geberyesus from West Orange. Second Place: Gabrielle King from Newark. Third Place: Natalie Steele from Montclair.

Adult Non-Professional Category: First Place: Aleah Colon-Alfonso from Caldwell. Second Place: Essex County West Caldwell Tech Campus culinary arts students Almani Okuwobi, Natalie Cordero and Sandy Carmo and their teacher Victoria Atfield. Third Place: Essex County North 13th Street Campus culinary arts students Ibn Thomas, Christian Fuentes, Shaylah Waters and Shanaia Lawrence and their teacher Brett Boone.

 Adult Professional Category: First Place: Highlawn Pavilion from West Orange. Second Place: Palermo Bakery from Little Ferry. Third Place: Sunrise Bakery Bunch from the ShopRite in West Caldwell.

Entries were judged on distinctiveness, creative use of a nature theme, use of “green” building design techniques and skill in decoration. The gingerbread homes were on display at the Essex County Environmental Center during the month of December.

Sponsors of this year’s contest were McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant in West Orange, Fairchild’s Market in Roseland, the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, Foodtown in Caldwell, ShopRite in West Caldwell, Learning Express in Livingston, Trader Joe’s in Millburn, REI in East Hanover, Aramark of West Orange, Kitchen a la Mode in South Orange, Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Manhattan Bagel in Roseland, Starbucks in Roseland, Terra Tea Salon & Fair Trade Café in Montclair, Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, Watchung Booksellers in Montclair and Jerry’s Artist Outlet in West Orange.

Classes and programs with nature themes are offered at the Essex County Environmental Center. Registration is required for all programs at the Essex County Environmental Center. For more information or to register, please call 973-228-8776. The Center is located at 621B Eagle Rock Avenue in Roseland.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 22 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, two miniature golf courses, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. The Environmental Center is located within Essex County West Essex Park, which is 1,360 acres of wetlands preserves.