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Virus Changes Annual Gingerbread House Contest

Last year’s third place winner in the youth category.

AshevilleThe Omni Grove Park Gingerbread House Competition will take place again this year, but not in the hotel nor in person. This year, for the 28th annual competition, there will be no public display of the amazingly creative gingerbread houses at the hotel per COVID-19 precautions. Instead, the competition is being held virtually. (Entries are now closed.) In addition, other related online activities will take place. A renowned group of food, arts, and media professionals—including Food Network star Carla Hall—will formally judge the Gingerbread Designs both virtually and in person. From December 1 until December 12, one finalist will be announced per day, via social media, with the Grand Prize winner announced December 12, National Gingerbread House Day. This new plan allows everyone to celebrate the 2020 finalists while staying socially distanced. Tune in via Facebook (@omnigroveparkinn) and Instagram (@omnigrovepark).

As the event has grown over the years, so has the caliber of judges and competitors as well as number of participants. The 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.

This 2019 gingerbread clipper ship by Wanda Myers was an adult entry. Photo courtesy of Omni Grove Park Inn.
This 2019 gingerbread clipper ship by Wanda Myers was an adult entry. Photo courtesy of Omni Grove Park Inn.

Starting October 21, a Gingerbread Making series has aired, with three episodes. For a small fee, students can learn gingerbread basics featuring Top Chef television personality Carla Hall and Myrtle Beach chef Geoff Blount; piping and embellishments with Atlanta pastry chef Nicholas Lodge; and the great gingerbread house with chef John Cook. A portion of the proceeds goes to ACFEF’s Chef & Child initiative. Students also receive 15% off future stays January through March 2021. 

For those interested in constructing their own gingerbread house, the Omni Grove Park Inn lists a blueprint for making one on their website. There is a piping practice sheet, a list of tools and ingredients, and recipes for every component of the house—gingerbread, royal icing, pastillage (gum paste), and gingerbread pastillage (paste that can change colors), play dough, and decorative dead dough.

In addition, overnight guests at the hotel will be offered an insider’s look at this year’s National Gingerbread House Competition finalists through film November 23–January 3. This behind-the-scenes access includes interviews with competitors and judges as well as footage of the finalists’ confectionary creations to create an up-close experience.

Over the years, thousands have enjoyed traipsing through the hotel’s hallways to see the many fanciful entries in so many categories and age brackets, from adult to teens to youth and child. Creativity and imagination abound. Visitors might see a chorus of penguins or a truck full of toys, all made from gingerbread. Gigantic decorated Christmas trees in the hallways fill the hotel, and roaring, crackling fireplaces flank the entryway. It is magical to be surrounded by the sights and sounds of the season. Hotel guests can dine overlooking the city of Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains. But confirmed reservations are a must this year. For those who arrive without a reservation during high occupancy times, admittance onto the property cannot be guaranteed and will be subject to capacity protocols to ensure safety restrictions remain intact. 

Santa soars through the air in the 2019 adult entry by Mary Spafford. Photo courtesy of the Omni Grove Park Inn.
Santa soars through the air in the 2019 adult entry by Mary Spafford.

The gingerbread house competition has become one of the nation’s most celebrated and competitive holiday events, often meriting broadcast coverage by ABC’s Good Morning America<, the Travel Channel, and the Food Network. The gingerbread display has grown to become a true family holiday tradition. From the very young to the very young at heart, the reaction to this magical experience is the same—wonder, awe, and delight. Happily, thanks to technology, the festive show will take place virtually.

Check out Omni Grove Park Inn’s cooking class:

https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/asheville-grove-park/things-to-do/gingerbread/baking-spirits-bright