For the 30th year, The Omni Grove Park Inn ushers in the holiday season with a dazzling display of gingerbread art
A jolly group of Santa’s elves cavort atop miniature elephants, lions, and other whimsical creatures on an ornate two-tiered carousel: to glance at this intricate creation, you might not guess that it’s all made of gingerbread. Crafted by The Merry Mischief Bakers from Phoenix, Arizona, the carousel comprises 2,500 individual parts and took more than 1,000 hours to complete. The effort was worth it—this was the Grand Prize winner of last year’s National Gingerbread House Competition, held at The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville.
What started in 1992 with a handful of gingerbread houses constructed by Asheville residents and showcased at the Inn has mushroomed into the nation’s largest gingerbread competition, now in its thirtieth year. From mermaids to Minions, the jaw-dropping array of gingerbread figures and fantasies staggers the eye.
Evaluating more than one hundred entries across four age categories spanning five years to adult is no easy task for the ten judges, a group of culinary luminaries which this year adds James Beard Award finalist Ashleigh Shanti, chef/owner of Good Hot Fish. The team judges each entry on overall appearance, originality and creativity, difficulty, precision, and consistency of theme.
For competitors, everything above the base of their entry has to be made of edible materials, and the main structure must consist of at least seventy-five-percent gingerbread. Entries cannot be larger than twenty-four inches high, wide, and long.
Gingerbread houses first became popular in Germany, particularly after the Brothers Grimm released “Hansel an Gretel,” featuring a fanciful house made of treats, in 1812.
Winners compete for more than $40,000 in cash and prizes, beginning with the Grand Prize winner in the adult category, who receives $7,500 and a two-night stay on the Grove Park’s Club Floor. This year, six new categories will win prizes: Best Use of Color, Best Use of Sprinkles, Longest Standing Competitor, Most Unique Ingredient, Pop Culture Star, and Most Innovative Structure. And for the first time this year, all contestants will be able to vote for the new People’s Choice Award: Best in Show.
“We are thrilled to be celebrating thirty years of tradition and ginger-vation in the baking!” says Susan Rotante, the hotel’s director of marketing and communications. “A community and sense of tradition has been built around coming to The Omni Grove Park Inn for this iconic competition. It always feels like a reunion year after year here and it is truly a part of the holidays—not only for our competitors, but for our associates and our guests. Going into the thirtieth year, The Omni Grove Park Inn is honored to celebrate—and elevate—the competitors each year while fostering the innovation and legacy of gingerbread.”
The 30th National Gingerbread House Competition, The Omni Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Ave, Asheville, NC. Nov 28, 2022-Jan 2, 2023. (800) 438-5800.
You Can Enter
You’d better get started if you want to cook up your own gingerbread creation for the National Gingerbread House Competition. The deadline for entry forms is Monday, November 14, by 5 p.m. Entry registration is on Sunday, November 20; the judging and awards ceremony (closed to the public) will take place on November 21. Find rules, entry forms, and more information at omnihotels.com/gingerbread.
The official gingerbread display at The Omni Grove Park Inn runs from November 28, 2022–January 2, 2023. The public is welcome to view the display anytime Monday through Thursday and after 6 p.m. on Sunday. Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for registered resort guests and those who have confirmed dining reservations at the hotel.
Can’t get there in person? Continuing its pandemic-year tradition, dubbed The 12 Days of Gingerbread, the hotel will present one of the Top 12 finalists each day on its Facebook and Instagram channels from December 1–12.