Well before the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, bakers all around the country work on their entries for one of the biggest holiday events of the season: The Annual National Gingerbread House Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, the historic, stately resort has been hosting a gingerbread competition for over three decades, an event that started in 1992 with a small group of community members passionate about gingerbread. The Annual National Gingerbread House Competition is now a nationwide event that draws (and awes) holiday visitors from near and far.
Brave bakers are divided into adult, teen, youth and child categories and compete for awards like “Best Use of Color,” “Best Use of Sprinkles,” “Most Unique Ingredient,” “Most Innovative Structure,” and “Longest Standing Competitor.” Across the board, all of the gingerbread structures must be 75% gingerbread and 100% edible.
This year’s festive creations—200 entries submitted from 22 states and Guatemala—were judged by a panel on “overall appearance, originality, creativity, difficulty, precision, and consistency of theme,” The Omni Grove Park Inn announced in a release. And boy, are the entries spectacular. (Grab a slice of Gingerbread Bundt Cake and buckle up.)
The Grand Prize winners of the 2023 competition are an aunt-and-niece baking duo from Fuquay Varina, NC (aptly self-titled the Difficult Dessert Devotees) with “Christmas at the Tongkonan.” The duo also won “Most Unique Ingredient” for their use of catgut dental sutures and stevia leaves. Pat Ashley Howard from Orlando, FL took second place with a charming tortoise in “Moving Day” and Bonnie Hardiman of Hagerstown, MD took third with “Home Delivery.” The full list of winners and awards can be found here.
The very-merry gingerbread “houses” will be on display at The Omni Grove Park Inn from November 27, 2023 through January 2, 2024. While resort guests will have the best time slots to see the remarkable constructions (24/7!), locals and visitors can see the display from Monday through Thursday anytime and Sundays after 4 p.m., excluding holidays (December 23-25, 30-31 and January 1). In addition to the oh-so-sweet competition, the inn is decked to the nines for the holiday season: There are over 80 illuminated trees around the property and a life-size gingerbread house in The Great Hall.
We’re feeling inspired to do a bit of gingerbread baking ourselves. Though not quite as masterfully designed as some of these artists’ sculptures, a Gingerbread Cake Roll with Eggnog Cream will still wow all of your holiday guests.