NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 30, 2012

Home sweet home

8-foot-tall confectionary creation salutes Salisbury Beach

Staff Reports
Newburyport Daily News

---- — SALISBURY — Consider it a gingerbread house on steroids. Or at least one worthy of a royal kingdom.

When 29-year-old James “Hollywood Jim” Shalkoski set out to design this year’s gingerbread house for Seaglass Restaurant on Salisbury Beach, where he works as a bartender, he was definitely going for the wow factor.

But even he may have outdone himself with the 8-foot-tall, seaside-themed confectionary masterpiece bedecked in more than 1,000 LED lights.

They don’t call it a fantasy for nothing.

The Salisbury Beach Past & Present Gingerbread House was unveiled yesterday amid much fanfare.

Shalkowski spent more than three weeks painstakingly creating the 300-pound structure that honors some of Salisbury Beach’s beloved icons, popular landmarks and amusements from the early 1900s to today.

The edible edifice is like a walk down memory lane, with its miniature depiction of the intricate and massive Victorian-style Ocean Echo building that housed The Frolics, the beach’s famous nightclub from the 1940s through the 1970s; Shaheen’s FUNORAMA including game stands, the Chinese Snack Bar and Bob’s Roast Beef; the Himalaya Ride complete with spinning motion and the original music playlist; and the old Coast Guard watch tower and Ghost Trail stage coach train from the turn of the century.

It also honors the beach today, with the current Pavilion building where Seaglass and the adjacent Blue Ocean Music Hall is based featured as well — complete with signs and the electronic message board that currently sits on the corner of the property.

Creating the structure was no easy feat. It’s made from 256 square feet of gingerbread baked from scratch,

Shalkoski began the time-consuming task of designing the gingerbread house two months ago by researching old photos of Salisbury Beach, consulting with seniors at the Salisbury Council on Aging to gather their memories of the seaside, and walking the old Salisbury to Amesbury Ghost Trail. Then, he set about making every edible detail.

The Georgetown resident, graduate of Salem State and Rutgers University and professional actor and artist began baking and decorating cakes for his friends’ children two years ago. But the gingerbread house — measuring 8 feet in circumference — is by far his most impressive creation.

Among those doing the honors lighting the house at yesterday’s unveiling were two longtime Salisbury residents — 91-year-old Millie Greaney, a Salisbury native who was the first kindergarten teacher in town and has great memories of Salisbury Beach; and 78-year-old Jim Pollard, a retired Salisbury Beach police officer and former selectman who was also born and raised in town. Children from the Lower Merrimack Valley Boys & Girls Club based in Salisbury helped with the countdown as well.

The sweet creation will remain on display through Jan. 14 in The Pavilion lobby between Seaglass and Blue Ocean Music Hall at 4 Oceanfront North at the beach.

SUGAR HIGH

Among the ingredients that went into the making of the Salisbury Beach Past & Present Gingerbread House are:

More than 1,000 pounds of confectionary sugar

More than 60 pounds of flour

40 pounds of brown sugar

30 dozen eggs

11 pounds of isamalt specialty sugar to create windows and the Himalaya ride

10 pounds of white chocolate to hand-sculpt tiny human figures, including the memorable Himalaya boys

8 pounds of graham crackers

6 gallons of molasses

1 gallon of corn syrup