Over 200 Incredible Gingerbread Houses Displayed at Omni Grove Park Inn - TribPapers

Over 200 Incredible Gingerbread Houses Displayed at Omni Grove Park Inn

Grand Prize Adult Winner: Christmas at the Tongkona by Faith An and Deborah Kinton. Photo courtesy of Omni Grove Park Inn.

Asheville – For over three decades The Omni Grove Park Inn has held a national gingerbread house contest. It draws contestants from all over the USA and even further afield. It has become a favorite holiday tradition for bakers as well as visitors. The showcase of colorful gingerbread houses is displayed amongst dozens of decorated trees in this historic resort, bringing the holiday spirit to all who enter the hotel. In addition, on display in the Great Hall, guests can visit a large gingerbread house modeled after the historic Omni Grove Park hotel itself, while they enjoy hot chocolate, a specialty craft brew in partnership with Highland Brewing or sweet treats near the glow and warmth of the Inn’s iconic fireplaces.

Individuals and baking teams of all levels and ages are invited to compete in a number of contest categories, which include four age groups—Adult,Teen,Youth and Child. The houses are made of 75 gingerbread and 100 % edible (except for the base) and judged on overall appearance, originality and creativity, difficulty, precision, and constancy of theme. Elaborate and whimsical handmade gingerbread houses of every size and shape are created. Many have taken months to complete. This year there were over 200 entries from over 22 states and Guatemala. Contestants are competing for more than $40,000 in cash and prizes. The competition has merited broadcast coverage by NBC’s TODAY Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, the Travel Channel, and the Food Network.

This year Beatriz Mejia traveled over 4,000 miles from Guatemala in Central America to participate in the competition. But the Grand Prize Adult: Difficult Dessert Devotees, winner in 2023 was an aunt and niece duo, Faith An and Deborah Kinton, from Fuquay Varina, North Carolina (located in South Wake County, approximately 30 miles south of Raleigh). This was their third year of entering the contest but first time winning.Their “Christmas at the Tongkona ” has an Indonesian family posed around their Tongkonan, a traditional and symbolic boat-shaped house. The family is still in their parade outfits, ones you’d wear for a boisterous funeral. A man is cooking dinner on his outdoor stove, and a woman has prepared coffee. The roof of “Christmas at the Tongkonan” was made of pasta, a particularly frustrating ingredient to work with.

The 2023 winning entries in the categories of Adult, Teen, Youth, Child, and People’s Choice: Best in Show Award include:

  • Grand Prize Winner, Adult: Difficult Dessert Devotees, “Christmas at the Tongkonan” – Fuquay Varina, NC
  • Adult Second Place: Pat Ashley Howard, “Moving Day” – Orlando, FL
  • Adult Third Place: Bonnie Hardiman, “Home Delivery” – Hagerstown, MD
  • Teen (ages 13-17) First Place: Courtland High School German Program, “Vintage Voyage” – Spotsylvania, VA
  • Teen Second Place: Toccoa Titans, “Grove’s Miracle Tonic” – Blue Ridge, GA
  • Teen Third Place: Emma Rhinehart, “An Elegant Christmas” – Columbia, TN
  • Youth (ages 9-12) First Place: Frost Girls, “Fun in the Tub” – Woodbury, MN
  • Youth Second Place: Perry Reid, “Holiday Smackdown” – Travelers Rest, SC
  • Youth Third Place: The Fiddleheads, “Little Blue Truck’s Christmas” – Clyde, NC
  • Child (ages 5-8) First Place: Grace Webster, “The Night of Magical Memories” – Greenville, SC
  • Child Second Place: China Grove Cousins, “Ready, Set, SNOOOOWWWW!!!!” – Mooresville, NC
  • Child Third Place: Paul Frahler, “Bath Santa Takes Off!” – Greenville, SC
  • People’s Choice: Best in Show Award: Love at Frost Sight, “Rockin’ at the Diner” – Woodbury, MN

The panel of judges for the Gingerbread House Contest includes nationally recognized professionals in food, arts, and media. Joining the esteemed returning judges this year is celebrity cake artist Yolanda Gampp, who is known for her role on FOX’s Crime Scene Kitchen and as the co-founder of “How to Cake It.”

Public viewing of the display is available until January 2nd, with exceptions on specific dates. Non-hotel guests can visit Monday through Thursday or after 4 p.m. on Sundays. Please note that the display will be closed to the public from December 23-25 and December 30 – January 1. A $25 parking charge per vehicle applies to all drive-on day guests, with a portion of each charge donated to local non-profit organizations. The total donations collected over the past ten years exceed $900,000.

The Gingerbread House Contest at The Omni Grove Park Inn has become a beloved family holiday tradition. Visitors of all ages are captivated by the magical experience, filled with wonder, awe, and delight. Don’t miss the chance to visit The Omni before January 2, 2024, to be a part of this enchanting event.