Two hundred and nineteen gingerbread house entrants took part in the nation’s largest Annual National Gingerbread House Competition in Asheville, N.C. this week.

 The Omni Grove Park Inn has held the contest for 30 years and this time upped the ante awarding $40,000 in cash and prizes, a 60% increase to years past.

This year, there were new specialty awards like “Best Use of Sprinkles,” and “Most Unique Ingredient,” in honor of former long-time judge, the late Chef Nicholas Lodge. Also new to the contest, competitors voted on their favorite design to choose a “People’s Choice: Best in Show Award.”

Each entry is required to be 75% gingerbread and 100 percent edible.

The Grand Prize Winner was Ann Bailey, of Cary, N.C. for her “When Dreams Have Wings” creation, earning her $7,500. Other category winners were the team Rhinehart Girls, “Fairy Tea House,” of Columbia, TN in the Teen (13-17) category, Coble Adams, “Santa Yoda and His Baby Elves,” of Raleigh for Youth (ages 9-12) and Maisy Frahler, “Christmas Morning Paper Dolls,” of Greenville, SC for the Child (ages 5-8) category. 

The 2022 People’s Choice: Best in Show Award went to  Jessica Frost of El Paso Texas for her, “Engine of America.” The Most Unique Ingredient award went to an Asheville team called Strangest Sisters, who used Nori in their “Vecna’s Lair.”

The annual competition began in 1992 with a small group of gingerbread houses built by community members and has grown to become one of the nation’s most competitive holiday events.

Tourism in Asheville, particularly around Christmas, is big business. With nearby Biltmore Estate, tourism in Asheville generates more than $390 million in tax revenues for the town and tourism-sustained jobs generated total income of nearly $900 million annually. One in seven people in Asheville work in in the tourism industry. During the 2020 government shutdowns, Asheville was hit hard, reaching nearly 17% unemployment. In 2020, the Gingerbread House competitors were asked to submit photographs and a video of their entry. From the submissions, each division was narrowed down to the top five, who were invited to bring their gingerbread creations to the Omni Grove Park Inn to be judged.

According to the Omni Grove Park Inn, this year’s gingerbread entries will be on display through January 2, 2023. Only guests of the hotel have access to the display on Fridays and Saturdays. The general public can view them Mondays through Thursdays and after 6pm on Sundays.