By Ken Doherty
MethuenLife Writer

What started three years ago as a small gingerbread house project for Methuen resident Andy Acampora and his granddaughter Gina Evangelista has become their annual Christmas tradition.

Andy is a retired business manager with an extraordinary talent for cooking and baking. Gina is a junior at Central Catholic High School who plans to attend culinary college after graduation. For this project, they draw on skills Gina learned from professional pastry chefs at a two-day gingerbread class at Cambridge Culinary School in 2022.

The two start right after Thanksgiving designing, making and assembling the various gingerbread pieces. Once the house is assembled, they add the trim and final decorations using a variety of icings and candy. Wife and grandmother Margret Acampora admiringly tracks their progress with her camera.

This year’s creation is an amazing 85-piece lightkeeper’s house with an attached lighthouse. Being a lighthouse buff, Andy made sure to leave no detail out: atop the tower is a realistic-looking double-sided flashing light. Tiny LED lights illuminate clear gelatin windows on both buildings. At the base of the tower is a sea of blue made from melted Jolly Ranchers candy. The buildings are decorated with festive garland and wreaths and a dusting of sugary “snow” on the roof. Green gingerbread pine trees stand guard outside. The whole assembly is edible – except for the lights.

None of the gingerbread goes to waste after the house is taken down. Andy freezes the pieces for later enjoyment with his coffee.
Andy estimates it took them over 36 hours to build from start to finish. The massive creation occupies a whole dining room table and is nothing short of spectacular.

This is the third gingerbread house the two have done together. Andy says he most enjoys the time he gets to spend working with Gina on the project. Gina says she really enjoys the tradition of making these special creations with her grandfather and hopes to keep it going for many more years.

As for next year, Andy says their goal each year is “to go bigger with a more challenging build.”

It’s hard to imagine how they can top this one.