Guests of La Quinta Inn and Suites on Oglethorpe Highway won’t have much trouble getting into the holiday spirit this year.
In addition to the Christmas trees, wreaths and gift-wrapped boxes adorning the hotel, 15 hand-made gingerbread houses line the lobby’s wall — all entries in the second-annual Gingerbread House Decorating Contest, sponsored by La Quinta and the Hinesville Rotary Club.
According to the flyer posted on the contest’s Facebook page, the competition is open to all Fort Stewart, public and private schools in Liberty and Long counties, and area bakeries.
As of Tuesday, all of the Liberty County School System’s 14 learning sites had a gingerbread house entered in the contest. There also was an entry from the Hinesville Homeschoolers.
According to Lisette Fontanez, general manager of La Quinta and Rotary Club member, the public is welcome to drop by the hotel to view the entries. However, voting for the general public will be held online.
Entries also may be viewed at the contest’s Facebook page, which is called “2nd Annual Gingerbread Contest Hinesville Ga.” To cast a vote, participants can click the “Like” button on the photo of their favorite gingerbread house.
Fontanez said that the decision to hold the popular vote online came after some people took advantage of last year’s paper ballot-box format. By holding the vote online, participants are limited to one vote per person.
“It’s only our second year, so we’re still learning as we go,” Fontanez said.
Aside from a popular vote, five judges will score the houses in a judging and awards ceremony at 5:45 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12, in La Quinta’s lobby.
Although there was no theme for this year’s contest, some schools shared similar ideas. For example, Liberty County High School’s entry — a schoolhouse made of vanilla wafers and a roof constructed from Sun Chips — included a card that said “Education – the gift that keeps on giving.” Lyman Hall Elementary’s entry included the phrase “Giving the gift of learning.”
Other schools played off a patriotic theme. Bradwell Institute’s entry showcased a gift box made of graham crackers and addressed to the United States from the American armed forces. Inside the box was an American flag with the inscription “Our freedom.”
Both Taylors Creek and Frank Long elementary schools spun their entries off the Marine Corps’ famous Toys for Tots campaign.
First- and second-place winners will be decided between all area high, middle and elementary schools. Online public voting will be open until 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11.