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See the Winners of the Largest Gingerbread House Competition in America

'Tis the season for the coolest seasonal activities around. You won’t believe what some amazing folks can do with gingerbread!

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

The most amazing gingerbread houses you’ll ever see

It’s that time of year again—when holiday festivities come alive. From Christmas tree lighting ceremonies to contests, people across America get in the spirit of the season in many different ways. Of course, building gingerbread houses is one of them. Dating back to 16th-century Germany, when the elaborate cookie-walled houses were decorated with foil and gold leaf, gingerbread houses have been used as window decorations and given as gifts on religious holidays or birthdays.

These days, no one does gingerbread houses better than the folks who enter the National Gingerbread House Competition, hosted at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. The 27th competition, which took place on November 18, 2019, has announced its winners, and all we have to say is: Wow. These aren’t your ordinary (or traditional) gingerbread houses. Celebrity chef Carla Hall was one of the judges who assessed the 226 entries from gingerbread artists of all ages and backgrounds, and she certainly had her work cut out of her. Prepare to be amazed by this year’s talent, who created everything from a tiki hut and a polar bear to a grand piano!

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Grand Prize Winner, Adult

“I’m in shock,” said Gail Oliver of Johnson City, Tennessee, according to the Citizen Times. “I don’t do any icing or sugar work—I’m more of an artist than a baker.” Oliver’s gingerbread house was an astonishing sight. Called “The Water Hole,” the creation consisted of a tiki hut surrounded by an isomalt lake. A monkey, a flamingo, and a toucan were among the figurines created. Impressively, they were each made with gingerbread.

The scene inside was equally inventive, featuring a colorful tortoise seated at a bar tended by a fox, with sugar-glass bottles of faux liquor situated on the shelves. “When you look inside, there’s some brilliant detail,” said judge and pastry chef Aaron Morgan. “There’s a lot going on. The longer you look at it, the more things you see. There’s just a lot of depth to it.” Oliver won a $5,000 check for her winning entry. If this inspires you to make your own seasonal spectacle, check out these 12 tricks for a picture-perfect gingerbread house.

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Adult Second Place

In a complete 180 from Oliver’s design, this surreal gingerbread house featuring multiple perspectives was created by Beatriz Müller of Innisfil, Ontario. It is reminiscent of M.C. Escher’s works. Escher was a Dutch graphic artist famous for creating surreal pieces that often featured bizarre or impossible architecture. Müller took the third-place prize just two years ago. You can see this gingerbread house in person, along with the others, at the Omni until January 4, 2020. And if you’re looking for other holiday activities, check out these best Christmas towns in every state—including yours.

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Adult Third Place

Third place in the adult category went to Larry and Julia Vorpahl of Ellijay, Georgia, for this lifelike wagon sitting on snow. The wagon in “Caravan Christmas” featured ornate, golden designs in the “wood” of the structure, making for a lavish, antique look. Every design featured, including the lovely lady sitting on the steps beneath the wagon’s front door, is 100 percent edible. The judges made sure of that!

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Teen (13- to 17-year-olds) First Place

Yes, teenagers created this. The team from the Courtland High German Program in Spotsylvania, Virginia, got an A+ for this stunning scene of Santa’s grotto, complete with a mini gingerbread man, elves, the perfect tree, and, of course, the big guy himself. The incredibly detailed gingerbread creation earned the school’s program its sixth consecutive win. Well, this is certainly one way to get kids off their smartphones! Here are another 10 ideas.

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Teen Second Place

Move over, Anna and Elsa, and make room for a new amazing sister duo. Sarah and Jenna Rhinehart of Columbia, Tennessee, created this wintertime spectacle—an on-trend, plant-based gingerbread design featuring a truck hauling veggies. Overflowing piles of produce surround the vehicle and are cleverly designed in the shape of Christmas trees.

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Teen Third Place

Quaint, simple, and perfectly Christmasy. That’s the best way to describe this snowy Christmas tree lot made by students from the Institute of Innovation in Gaffney, South Carolina. The design featured a cozy shed adorned with wreaths for purchase, and thick, lush trees for customers to choose from. Read on for tips to build your own edible dream house.

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Youth (9- to 12-year-olds) First Place

First place in the youth category went to Anderson Adams of Raleigh, North Carolina, for this homage to “a coat of many colors.” The design showed a modern and biblical interpretation that was both vibrant and creative. Do you know the history behind your favorite Christmas traditions?

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Youth Second Place

Piano players might wish they could transport themselves to a seat at this sweet instrument to play their favorite Christmas tunes! Second place in the youth category consisted of a beautiful gingerbread grand piano by Evalyn Routh of Climax, North Carolina. And it’s not just the piano that looks super realistic. Routh also gave equal attention to things like the intricately woven rug underneath the piano and the poinsettias next to it.

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Youth Third Place

Rounding out the youth group, Emma Rhinehart of Columbia, Tennessee, created this snowy scene straight out of the Antarctic. The adorable look consisted of caroling penguins bundled up in Santa hats and red scarves, surrounded by berry-adorned evergreens. Another winning touch? She lined the base of her gingerbread creation with musical notes. Talk about attention to detail! Caroling is one of the 15 old-fashioned Christmas traditions we should bring back.

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Child (5- to 8-year-olds) First Place

Winter is magical for kids, and that’s evident in this creation from Adair Cary of Marshall, North Carolina. This wintry scene featured a gingerbread polar bear walking through a mystical, snowy village with a fairy perched on its back.

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Child Second Place

The runners-up in this category were the Tinker Kids out of Lexington, Kentucky. Their gingerbread entry consisted of a colorful Christmas fireplace that looked so inviting, you’d want to pluck a present from the scene and open it up while warming your bones by the fire. And for better or worse, kids these days can’t think about Christmas without an Elf on the Shelf, and this second-place winner features two of Santa’s little spies—er, helpers. Check out these fun family Christmas games everyone will enjoy.

largest Gingerbread house competitionCourtesy Omni Grove Park Inn

Child Third Place

Closing out the list, the Glitter Girls from Blue Ridge, Georgia, showed off their skills with a sugary scene called “The Snow Dancers and the Land of Sweets.” It featured tiny snow women with pretzel stick arms and candied smiles. They look good enough to eat—which, of course, they are! Next, check out these Christmas traditions from around the world that you’ll want to steal.

Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine, and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty, and scientific news. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected], and check out her website: