Some might say it's not officially the Christmas season until you've had your first gingerbread cookie. But at the Omni Grove Park Inn, it's not officially Christmas until they've decked their halls with award-winning gingerbread houses. Now in its 27th year, the National Gingerbread House Competition—billed as the largest in the country—was held at the Asheville, North Carolina-based hotel this week, and starting today, all the winners will be on display for the remainder of the holiday season. But you can get a preview of some of the top prize-earners below.
The 2019 competition featured the largest number of entrants in a decade—226 creations, all of which had to be at least 75 percent gingerbread—broken down into four categories: Adult, Teen (13- to 17-year-olds), Youth (9- to 12-year-olds), and Child (5- to 8-year-olds). The entries are then judged by a panel that this year included chef Carla Hall, as well as The Met curator Nadine Orenstein, James Beard Award winner Cheryl Forberg, Barry Callebaut sugar artist Mark Seaman, and sugar art book author Nicholas Lodge, who serves as head judge.
Landing the grand prize—and walking with a $5,000 check (part of over $25,000 in cash and prizes given away at the event)—was Gail Oliver of Johnson City, Tennessee, with her "The Water Hole" tropical tiki bar.
Second place in the adult category went to Beatriz Muller of Innisfil, Ontario, with an M.C. Escher-like gingerbread housing featuring multiple perspectives (seen at the top of this article). Muller took the third place prize just two years ago.
Leading the teen category was the team from the Courtland High German Program in Spotsylvania, Virginia, with an intricate gingerbread-take on Santa's grotto.
The teen runners-up were sisters Sarah and Jenna Rhinehart of Columbia, Tennessee, with an on-trend, plant-based design of a truck hauling veggies.
First place in the youth group went to Anderson Adams of Raleigh, North Carolina, with a nod to both the modern and biblical interpretation of a "coat of many colors."
Second place went to Evalyn Routh of Climax, North Carolina, with a beautiful gingerbread grand piano.
Finally, for the youngest entrants, Adair Cary of Marshall, North Carolina, topped the child category with a gingerbread polar bear.
And the youth runners-up were the Tinker Kids out of Lexington, Kentucky, with a colorful Christmas fireplace display.
All of the gingerbread houses will be on display at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville until Saturday, January 4. Entry is free but drivers will be charged $25 for parking, with half of the proceeds going to local charities.