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A bittersweet gingerbread giveaway

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Children from all over the state came to the New York Hall of Science in Corona for the Gingerbread Lane Giveaway Monday.

The kids lined up with their parents long before the 3 p.m. start time and noisily did their best to wait their turn to pick their favorite gingerbread house from chef Jon Lovitch’s quaint cookie colony, and still more streamed in as the event got underway.

“Before the event started there were 200 people, and it’s more than that after the fact,” said Mary Record, the NYSCI director of communications.

Last year every child got a chance to choose two houses, and Lovitch kept that tradition alive by building even more of the crunchy cottages this year for his candied lane.

“There are 1,251 houses,” said Lovitch, who admitted he was sad to see them go. “It’s kind of neat and refreshing because you get to start over for next year … I’m already two weeks in for next year,” added Lovitch. “But it’s sad to see 11 months of work go.”

First on line was a grandmother from Whitestone who arrived two hours early to get the treats for her 11, 8 and 5-year-old grandkids.

“They saw it when the gentleman was putting it all together in November, so they were very excited,” said Mildred Crawford. “They are going to be surprised … I didn’t know I was going to get it. That is why I came at 1 p.m.”

For some, stopping by to scoop up the sugary shacks is as much of a tradition asLovitch building them.

“Yeah, this is my third,” said 8-year-old Gabriella Tavari of Great Neck. “I’m happy to get a new one, and I love it because it’s big.”

Angelo Jarra, who came in from the Bronx, was quick to grab his own gingerbread house while his two siblings shared theirs.

“They have this wide house,” said Jarra. “I’ve made a gingerbread house myself, but they are not as big as this,,” said the 10-year-old, who goes to PS 97. “The gingerbread house is pretty heavy, it’s almost half my body...it might take me over a year to eat it.”

Helping Lovitch to dispense the frosted homes for more than two years was Judy Seltzer, his fiancés.

“He works so hard on this all year round, and to see these kids come and be so happy when they get to take a piece of it home is bittersweet for him, because he sees the village disassembled, but I love watching the kids’ reactions,” said Seltzer. “My favorite was the first one to go, the unicorn and company,” she said as she watched grandma Crawford walk off with the white and purple creation.

Although Seltzer was sad to see the mythical creature go, she has other things to look forward to — such as a whimsical wedding befitting the mayor of a gingerbread village.

“Our save-the-date is going to have a gingerbread house and penguin on it,” said the Forest Hills veterinarian.

Throughout the two-hour process of delicious demolition, Lovitch couldn’t wait to clean house.

“Well, first it’s fun, but it’s hard work,” said Lovitch. “Eighty percent of these gingerbread houses will find a nice home, though.”

Not looking forward to the cleanup was Kevin Martinez, the New York Hall of Science custodian, who tried his hand at making a gingerbread house of his own, but regrets not getting Lovitch’s advice.

“I tried to make one at home with my kid. It was a wonderful but a terrible experience,” said Martinez, from the Bronx. “We made a big mess. It looks at lot easier, but forget it. My kitchen was a mess. Jon wasn’t around when I got the supplies, so I couldn’t ask for tips. He is the master.”

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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