Currently celebrating its 100-year anniversary, Asheville, North Carolina’s historic hotel is home to the National Gingerbread House Competition.
by Hope Philbrick
If you’ve ever baked a sheet full of gingerbread men, then broken a few arms and legs in the process of removing them from the pan, and then figured out how to mask the carnage with frosting and other creative candy solutions — feeling quite smug about your skills — then you’ll either be inspired or humiliated by the gingerbread creations on display at The National Gingerbread competition. Impressive is the word, and let me just say that these photos don’t do the pieces justice. The detail is immense.
“Some folks put 500 hours into their entries,” says Tracey Johnston-Crum, director of public relations and community outreach at The Grove Park Inn, who organized the competition for several years.
The National Gingerbread Competition is a holiday tradition, now in its 21st year, hosted by Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. It elevates confection to fine art. The surprise: The entries are painstakingly crafted by amateurs, not professional pastry chefs.
Despite what’s implied by the competition’s name, designs are not limited to houses. In fact, there are no specific theme requirements (though if a piece is considered offensive it will be excluded). Entries are judged on five criteria: overall appearance, originality and creativity, difficulty, precision and consistency.
“The No. 1 rule is that entries must be 100-percent edible,” says David Mead special events manager, who is organizing the competition for the fifth time this year.
Rules state that designs must not exceed 24 inches at any angle. Except for the base, entries must be made only of edible materials— not even lollypop sticks are permitted. If judges are suspicious about any gravity-defying feats, they may drill in to make sure there’s no plastic or Styrofoam support. And at least 75-percent of the piece must be gingerbread, some of which must be exposed and not buried under icing, chocolate or another decorative element.
“The designs that come in are literally mind blowing,” says Johnston-Crum. “We have had judges take things apart to see how they’re being held together and interview children to be sure they worked on their entries on their own. It’s amazing how long in advance some people will plan and work on their designs and how much they spend on their pieces.”
Click on over to Getaways for Grownups to find out more about the competition and see additional photos. All entries are on display through January 2, and non-resort guests are invited to view the gingerbread display and expanded holiday décor at The Grove Park Inn at no charge.