This year, 219 entries competed for $40,000 in cash and prizes.
Thanksgiving week marks the official start of the holiday season. But it also marks the official end of the National Gingerbread House Competition. Now in its 30th year, the annual event — billed as the largest gingerbread house competition in America — announces its winners just before Thanksgiving, leaving event hose The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina time to put everything on display for the Christmas rush.
This year, the number of entries — which were first solicited back in July — nearly doubled from over 120 last year to a massive 219 houses in 2022. The cash and prizes across all of the categories also increased: a value of $40,000 compared to $25,000 in previous years.
Those weren't the only changes. The event added new speciality awards alongside its usual first, second, and third place winners in its Adult, Teen, Youth, and Child categories. They also added a new judge: 2020 James Beard finalist Ashleigh Shanti joined a team headlined by celebrity chef Carla Hall. However, the judging criteria remained the same: All entries had to be 100% edible and composed of at least 75 percent gingerbread; they were then evaluated on "overall appearance, originality/creativity, difficulty, precision, and consistency of theme."
Here are this year's winners:
After back-to-back wins from Phoenix, Arizona's The Merry Mischief Bakers, a previous Grand Prize winner returned to the fold this year: Ann Bailey from Cary, North Carolina, once again took the top prize, which also doubled as first place in the Adult category, with "When Dreams Have Wings" — an intricate mashup of themes from Peter Pan and Santa Claus.
Second place in the Adult category went to Beatriz Muller of Cold Water, Ontario, for "The Time of Christmas Past" — a stunningly ornate and sophisticated take on a clock.
Finally, third in the Adult category went to the Tiny Farm Bakers of Montreat, North Carolina, for "Merry Mountain Mayhem" — an outdoorsy display with three massive pine trees and a log cabin for the "house."
Topping the Teen category for ages 13 to 17 were the Rhinehart Girls from Columbia, Tennessee, with their "Fairy Tea House" — a fantasy-filled take on a tea set. These girls bested some tough competition: The second place finisher won the Teen category last year, while the third place finisher was the winner of last year’s Youth category.
Speaking of which, topping the Youth group (for kids aged 9 to 12) this year was Coble Adams from Raleigh, North Carolina, with "Santa Yoda and His Baby Elves" — a Star Wars-themed gingerbread house.
And among the youngest entrants in the 5- to 8-year-old "Child" category, first place went to Maisy Frahler of Greenville, South Carolina, with "Christmas Morning Paper Dolls" — a gingerbread take on, you guessed it, paper dolls.
But that’s not all! Other new awards were given out this year: Best Use of Color, Best Use of Sprinkles, Most Unique Ingredient (the Strangest Sisters won for their use of Nori), Most Innovative Structure, Pop Culture Star (that went to the Yodas), and Longest Standing Competitor (which went to Merry Spafford for competing 19 years in a row). The event also recognized the Furthest Traveled Competitor which went to Guatemala’s Beatritz Mejia.
Finally, for the first time, the event included a People’s Choice: Best in Show Award. That went to Jessica Frost of El Paso, Texas who leaned into patriotism with "Engine of America" — a display featuring everything from Wrigley Field to the White House to the Statue of Liberty.
If you want to see all of the winners in person, they'll be on display at The Omni Grove Park Inn from November 28, 2022 to January 2, 2023. It's open to the public on Monday to Thursday and after 6 p.m. on Sundays, excluding holidays as well as December 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, and January 1. All Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for registered resort guests and those that have confirmed dining reservations.