Dreams of Enchanting Gingerbread Houses
By Charlene & Richard Mixa
It’s 2018 and New Year resolutions and promises are decreed. Yet, a year ago, visions of gingerbread houses danced in the heads of many individuals. Their dream for the New Year was to compete in the 25th Annual National Gingerbread House Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn. A plethora of ideas were imagined for a unique gingerbread entry. With grit these talented and hearty souls prepared to tackle and compete in this prestigious event committing hundreds of hours to design, build and create a unique exhibit composed of flour and ginger in dreams of being the Grand Prize Winner.
With a blanket of snow covering the ground and mountains, we arrive at the Omni Grove Park to see their magnificent Gingerbread House Competition Display and for a Holiday Retreat at this enchanting resort. The huge stone structure with its curved roofline, its massive front porch adorned with a magnificent Christmas tree, and sparkling lights create a fairytale image. The Great Hall is all decked out for Christmas with roaring fires in the massive fireplaces at each end. In the center, a tall Christmas tree and The Great Gingerbread House (10 ft. x 10 ft.) made totally of gingerbread serves hot chocolate and Asheville Brewing Company’s Ninjabread Man Porter. On the Sunset Terrace is a winter wonderland scene with a huge sleigh for taking Christmas photos. The Inn is beautifully decorated for the Christmas season and celebrates the Christmas Spirit.
2017 National Gingerbread House Competition
Wow, 100% must be edible and 75% must be gingerbread. Basically the design must fit a 24 inch cube. A distinguished panel judges evaluates each baker’s creation based on overall appearance, originality & creativity, difficulty, precision and consistency of theme. Gingerbread houses abound! A 170 entries from 17 states and Canada compete for bragging rights and prizes. Luckily, the Food Network premier Gingerbread Giants featured a few of the 2017 gingerbread artists giving us prior insight into how they arrived at their design, as well as, the ups and downs of creating a multi-dimensional sugary entry. Bakers commit an amazing amount of time (over 500 hours for many), energy, initiative, talent, and challenges with dreams of creating the winning entry.
Staying at the Resort allows us to view the gingerbread houses at non-peak times. Our Gingerbread map makes it easy to locate the Top Ten winners for Adult, Teen, Youth and Child. So many ideas! So much creativity! So much detail! Dozens of sculptures in ginger and flour create show-stopping holiday designs. Strolling gingerbread entries it is inspiring to see the variety and intricate artistry. Looking at the entries for the Child Category we especially like “The Three Little Pigs” with each gingerbread house designed for each little piggy of a house of straw, a house of twigs and a house of bricks. Simple idea for that age group and well done. The Youth Category has displays of “Christmas Over the Rainbow” and “The Balloon Poppers. The First Place Winner of “The Dog Daze of School” is precious with a Service Dog – Bella looking over various school items. In the Teen Category we are impressed with the “Family” with a mother owl carefully protecting her owlet.
As we walk through the Adult Category entries the workmanship is phenomenal. Looking at the details of “Christmas in Venice” the 2nd Place Winner and “At Waters Edge” the 3rd Place Winner, we admire these most unique gingerbread creations with the magnificent detail. These sugary entries have vibrant colors and truly carry out the theme. Awesome! The Grand Prize Winner is Outstanding!
The 25th Anniversary Award Winner with bragging rights is Ann Bailey of Cary, NC. Ann’s “The Three Ghosts” represents the ghosts from Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.” Perched at the top is Ebenezer Scrooge along with figures of Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The intricacies and complexity of this entry is fantastic. Ann creates great faces for the characters and carries the theme to the “nth degree.” She even has open pages of books and with humorous titles of “How to Lose Friends and Irritate People,” “The Great Recession,” and “A Tightwads Guide to Investing.” Each side of “The Three Ghosts” is perfect in proportion, exquisite detail, carefully crafted people and every nook and cranny fits with the theme. Visitors to the Asheville area will definitely thrill at strolling through these enchanting and remarkable entries of the National Gingerbread House Competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn. More visions of gingerbread along with sugar-and spice creations are dancing in the heads of the soon to be 2018 entrants.
A Holiday Retreat
A favorite destination getaway, visiting the Grove Park Inn during the Christmas season is definitely a Festive Retreat. Christmas cheer is everywhere in this wonderful and enchanting resort. From the blazing warmth of the huge fireplaces to the many Christmas trees elegantly decorated throughout the Inn to bright red poinsettias to huge wreaths to the excitement of the Gingerbread House Competition, the Inn puts on a delightful holiday retreat for its winter visitors. After strolling through the 170 gingerbread entries, it’s time to relax in our King Bedroom in the Sammons Wing. Recent renovations add extra touches and updates while still keeping the warmth and charm of the Mission Style furnishings. We especially like the remodeled bathroom with the walk-in shower plus features of a refrigerator and safe. Our wintery view has the golf course covered in snow with snow on the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I hear music! Yes, it’s the Holiday Chorus Sing-Along, as the staff are singing Christmas Carols in the Great Hall. And “who to our wondering eyes should appear” – “Major Bear!” The Inn’s mascot dances with the little children as the staff sings carols. Watching the children, the parents, the carolers and Major Bear is heartwarming. A perfect time to get a cup of hot chocolate from The Great Gingerbread House and relax in a rocker by the fireplace. Ah!
Dining options are many! On our first evening we dine at Edison, Craft Ales + Kitchen and are delighted to be seated by the indoor fireplace on this cool wintery evening. Here we share a tasty fish spread and have light meals of salads while sampling the local brews. For breakfast we choose fresh pastries at the Marketplace with hot beverages. Relaxing during the day, we opt to dine at the Blue Ridge Dining Room with its farm-to-table artisanal buffet.
Majestic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are mesmerizing, as we delight in this eclectic buffet. Extensive choices of cold items of salads, cheese and meat platters, fresh shrimp, oysters, smoked trout and more tantalize our taste buds. For entrées a variety of options are available including venison, duck, salmon, roast turkey, pork and beef. Plus there are numerous hot vegetables, potatoes and pastas. Scrumptious desserts feature hot apple cobbler, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, pound cake, crème brûlée, tarts and cookies to name a few. Now we have to decide to relax in a rocker, take a long nap, or take a walk over to the Grovewood Village to burn off some calories. We opt to take a walk and shop at Grovewood Village just a short walk from the Inn. Yes, the Health & Fitness Center with its treadmills, ellipticals, weights and numerous classes is another option to burn off calories. Maybe next time.
After shopping in downtown Asheville we return to the warmth of the Inn. Enjoying an evening cocktail we sit in the Great Hall listening to a local band playing soothing music. With the fireplaces roaring, the relaxing music, and drinks, we toast our Holiday Retreat at the Omni Grove Park Inn. Cheers to the 2017 National Gingerbread House Competition! Looking forward to the exciting visions of gingerbread creatioins for 2018!
If you go: Note: Be sure to also check out the world-class spa that was voted one of the “Top Resort Spas in the U.S.” by Conde Nast Traveler. It is fabulous!
Omni Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Avenue, Asheville, NC 28804