Seasons Eatings

Nothing says the holidays quite like a carefully-decorated, candy-coated gingerbread house. A tradition in many homes around the country, it’s the North Carolinians who take this culinary craft to a whole new level.

So if you’re looking for the ultimate holiday treat, look no further than the incredible and oh-so edible creations at the 23rd Annual National Gingerbread House Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. Each year hundreds of intricate gingerbread designs vie for first prize, but just gazing at these glazed masterpieces is enough to satisfy any sweet tooth.

A Taste of North Carolina
Go beyond the gingerbread as Tracey Johnston-Crum, Director of Public Relations & Community Outreach at The Omni Grove Park, provides an insiders-guide to this acclaimed event. “This is our 23rd competition. It originally began as a way to involve the community in a holiday celebration back in the 1990s,” says Tracey. “Now gingerbread is the kick off to the season, it simply wouldn’t be Christmas without it.”

And she continues by saying that what truly sets this tempting tournament apart is the passion of it’s competitors. “Each year the competition is more than the previous years,” says Tracey. “Not always in quantity, but in excitement, talent and sheer joy.”

Best In Show
Submissions can be entered by both individuals and teams in adult, teen, youth and child categories. While the competitors are going head to head for a variety of prizes, there are some specialty awards, like the somewhat surprising category—transportation. Since moving these pieces is such a delicate feat, the entrant who traveled the farthest distance to get to the competition receives accolades for their efforts.

Based on five criteria—overall appearance, originality and creativity, difficulty, precision and theme consistency—winners are honored in each category. Plus, there is overall competition champion who will receive the grand prize: $5,000 check, a stay at The Omni Grove Park, dinner for two, a Prize Package from Chef Nicholas Lodge in Atlanta, GA and much more for their masterpiece.

It’s the 10 judges who have the difficult task of picking the top pastry. These esteemed foodies vary from year to year, and this panel features some truly sought-after talents, from the curator of the Department of Drawings and Prints at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to TLC and Food Network notables to The Omni Grove Park Inn’s own executive pastry chef.

Edible Art
But really, it’s the creativity of the gingerbread artisans that draw thousands upon thousands of tar heels to The Omni Grove Park Inn each holiday season. Tracey says that the entries “all seem so unique. We have had nursery rhyme entries, busts of famous people, classic houses, all types of Santas, and one year we had a total of five Narnia entries.”

Her favorite part is watching the younger contestants look at the teen and adult entries to see where they will be going in years to come. But one contestant will always stand out in her mind—a specific young lady won first prize in the Teen Category. “She had entered the competition each year beginning at age 5 and her mother utilized the event as a means to teach her daughter fractions, angles, design, art, etc. in her home schooling,” says Tracey.

Savor the Season
Ready to take bite out of this incredible event? Go ahead, indulge in the joy of the holidays at The Omni Grove Park Inn. All entries are on display now through January 3rd. And the best part is that there is no charge to view the houses or to enter the competition. There is, however, a $10 parking fee, half of which is donated to a local not-for-profit. Visit the national competition website page for more info!