Omni Grove Park Inn’s National Gingerbread House Competition
What would the holidays be like without the annual National Gingerbread House Competition?
It has been an Asheville ritual for over two decades: the annual National Gingerbread House Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn (until 2013, the Grove Park Inn). Along the way, it’s also become a beloved family holiday tradition for Western North Carolina, one which draws viewers from throughout the region—and beyond.
“It all began with a small group of gingerbread houses built by community members in 1992 as another way to celebrate the holiday season, with no plans to continue the following year,” explains Tracey Johnston-Crum, the Inn’s director of public relations. “There was no possible way to know that, more than two decades later, The Omni Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread House Competition would be one of the nation’s most celebrated and competitive holiday events.”
This year’s competition takes place on November 21, while the subsequent display of entries will run November 27 – January 9. It marks the 24th year of baking, decorating, pasting or otherwise affixing, and displaying. Meanwhile, it’s yet another opportunity for the public to wander the corridors of the Inn, gazing longingly at the brightly-hued, gleaming creations/confections on display (and perhaps looking around furtively as well, pondering the ethics of giving in to temptation and snapping off a gingerbread shingle or two). For her part, Johnston-Crum simply allows that “from the very young to the very young at heart, the reaction to this magical experience is the same—one of wonder, awe, and delight.”
She emphasizes that the competition, while still rooted here in the mountains, has garnered attention and kudos nationally, even generating broadcast coverage by ABC’s Good Morning America, the Travel Channel, and the Food Network. “As the event grew, so did the caliber of judges and competitors. Our panel of judges represents nationally renowned food, arts, and media professionals, and the level of competition has attracted the highest quality of design, artistry, and pastry expertise.”
Indeed—just noting some of the winners in the 2015 competition confirms her comments. There’s the grand prize in the adult category, by Chapel Hill’s Team Jengerbread, an elaborately-wrought structure which suggests a mashup of several fairy tale houses perched upon one another. First place in the child category, submitted by Team Spirit Girls (China Grove, North Carolina), is made to look like a large basket overflowing with colorful fruit. And first place in the youth category, by Collin Anderson (Conover, North Carolina), features a festive Christmas scene as overseen by Star Wars’ Darth Vader, R2D2, and a pair of Jawas.
Yes, as you are probably realizing, the rules do not restrict entries to just gingerbread “houses.” Nor is there a required theme for the competition, although the entry must be at least 75 percent gingerbread and 100 percent edible. Competitors are encouraged to uniquely design their entry, as long as it is in keeping with the competition rules and procedures and the five judging criteria: 1) Overall Appearance, 2) Originality & Creativity, 3) Difficulty, 4) Precision, and 5) Consistency of Theme.
There are four categories for entry: Adult (18+), Teen (13-17), Youth (9-12), and Child (5-8). Entrants can be individuals or teams. The judging will be held November 21, with the awards ceremony scheduled for 5:30 PM. Aspiring competitors can find out more details and download an entry form at The Omni Grove Park Inn website (http://bit.ly/2cZvKjv). And incidentally, parking fees collected during the display period will go to benefit six local nonprofits; in the past three years, over $192,000 has been raised and donated.
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